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"Safer at home" policies improve air pollution globally during coronavirus outbreak

Shelby County already meets the national standards for air pollution, so “safer at home” only helps improve it

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —

In times like these, a little good news goes a long way. That stands true for the air we breathe. COVID-19 has had an impact on the amount of air pollution and Local 24 News found out how.

Without a second thought, we inhale and exhale. COVID-19 has us more aware of what we breathe. Luckily for us, University of Memphis Environmental Health Associate Professor Dr. Jia said the air is cleaner than weeks prior.

"This air pollution drop or improvement occurred since COVID-19, globally and all over the country. This is an overall observation or phenomenon," said Dr. Jia.

What has the change been for Shelby County?

"It's been only like 10 days since the lock down policy, so we don't have enough data points to study," said Dr. Jia.

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There are less on the road vehicles and off the road vehicles such as construction equipment and lawn mowers that are important factors.

"All these field combustions contribute about 30 to 70%. It depends," said Dr. Jia. "Even though you've reduced emissions, you probably won't see the immediate drop in levels."

Indoor air pollution is also important especially since we're cooped up at home and using supplies to kill bacteria.

"Studies have found that indoor air pollution sometimes is more serious than ambient air pollution," said Dr. Jia. "You're now breathing in all these chemicals in indoor environments. There are chemicals from your detergents, from your cleaning products, cooking fumes. Some people even smoke at home."

Some of those chemicals can cause health issues such as cancer.

"Since the weather is getting warmer, my suggestion is if people want to open a window.

Get better ventilation. Get more fresh air from outside. That's something probably people need to think about during the pandemic," said Dr. Jia.

Shelby County already meets the national standards for air pollution, so safer at home only helps improve it.