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Quantifying Air Pollutant Variations during COVID-19 Lockdown in a Capital City in Northwest China

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Published: 19 June 2021
 by  MDPI
Atmosphere , Volume 12; doi:10.3390/atmos12060788

Abstract: In the context of the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), strict lockdown policies were implemented to control nonessential human activities in Xi’an, northwest China, which greatly limited the spread of the pandemic and affected air quality. Compared with pre-lockdown, the air quality index and concentrations of PM2.5, PM10, SO2, and CO during the lockdown reduced, but the reductions were not very significant. NO2 levels exhibited the largest decrease (52%) during lockdown, owing to the remarkable decreased motor vehicle emissions. The highest K+ and lowest Ca2+ concentrations in PM2.5 samples could be attributed to the increase in household biomass fuel consumption in suburbs and rural areas around Xi’an and the decrease in human physical activities in Xi’an (e.g., human travel, vehicle emissions, construction activities), respectively, during the lockdown period. Secondary chemical reactions in the atmosphere increased in the lockdown period, as evidenced by the increased O3 level (increased by 160%) and OC/EC ratios in PM2.5 (increased by 26%), compared with pre-lockdown levels. The results, based on a natural experiment in this study, can be used as a reference for studying the formation and source of air pollution in Xi’an and provide evidence for establishing future long-term air pollution control policies.
Keywords: COVID-19 / city lockdown / air pollutants / PM2.5 / global comparison

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