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Pandemic Lockdowns Improved Air Quality in 2020



According to the Swiss-based air quality technology company IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality Report which was based on PM2.5 data from 106 countries, 84 percent of all monitored countries observed air quality improvements in 2020 and this is due to the global measures implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus.

And out of the 106 monitored countries, only 24 met World Health Organization (WHO) annual guidelines for PM2.5 in 2020.

“Lockdown measures and changes in human behavior in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus resulted in healthier air overall in 2020. Air quality improvements over 2019 were observed in 84 percent of countries (weighted by city population) and 65 percent of global cities.”



CEO of IQAir Frank Hammes stated that “The year 2020 brought an unexpected dip in air pollution. In 2021, we will likely see an increase in air pollution due to human activity, again.”….”We hope this report will highlight that urgent action is both possible and necessary to combat air pollution, which remains the world’s greatest environmental health threat.”

In a statement, Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said that:

“Many parts of the world experienced unprecedented, but short-lived, improvements in air quality in 2020, as restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic caused a steep drop in fossil fuel consumption.”



Furthermore, according to the report, “the most significant air quality improvements were observed during the first lockdown period when countries around the world mandated relatively strict social distancing measures in an effort to contain the virus.”

These are some of the major cities with air quality improvements in 2020 compared to 2019:

  • Beijing
  • Chicago
  • Delhi
  • London
  • Paris
  • Seoul

Here are the major cities from the 2020 World Air Quality Report that were analyzed and mapped:

major cities world air quality map

Source: IQAir

These are the major cities that observed the greatest reductions in PM2.5 emission from the sample:

  • Singapore (-25%)
  • Beijing (-23%)
  • Bangkok (-20%)

While the following observed the greatest increases in PM2.5 from 2019 levels:

  • São Paulo (+5%)
  • Los Angeles (+1%)
  • Melbourne (+1%)

These three major cities mentioned above, according to the report, were impacted by severe wildfire seasons, which greatly affected annual PM2.5 averages.


Live Air Quality (AQI) City Ranking

You can check the live air quality ranking, HERE.

2020 World Air Quality Report

“The 2020 World Air Quality Report is based on PM2.5 data from 106 countries, that has been measured by ground-based monitoring stations. Of the data sources included in this report, 66.6% of stations were operated by governmental agencies, while the remainder represent monitoring stations managed by local residents, non-profit organizations and companies. ”



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Source: 2020 World Air Quality Report 1, 2020 World Air Quality Report 2


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