Lockdown helps improve air quality

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AIR quality in Jersey improved in 2020, but the fall in traffic during lockdown was part of the reason, a government report has revealed.

Monitoring devices were used to measure levels of nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons – the main pollutants from vehicles – at locations around the Island.

Nitrogen dioxide was measured at a central monitoring station at the Central Market and by samplers at 17 other sites.

Levels of hydrocarbons were monitored at five locations. Some hydrocarbons are very harmful to human health – with one, benzene, linked to cases of leukaemia.

The site at the market recorded an annual average of NO2 of 19 cubic micrograms. This was almost 14% lower than the 22 c/mg recorded in 2019.

At all sites levels were below the maximum permitted in the European Union.

Each of the hydrocarbon-measuring sites also showed a decrease, and annual average levels below those required by EU directives.

The report said: ‘Covid-19 has had unprecedented impacts on daily life for all of the world and Jersey is no different.

‘When looking at the temporal, especially seasonal, variations the impacts of the pandemic must be considered.

‘Covid-19 restrictions had a significant impact on almost all onsite activities, strict stay-at-home orders reduced the frequency of site visits to the automatic instrument and of diffusion tube changes, while travel restrictions on visitors meant that no QA/QC audit or service took place during the summer of 2020.’

Last year was the 24th consecutive year in which an air-monitoring programme has been carried out in the Island.

The report also found that outside the periods of lockdown, the highest levels of NO2 were consistently recorded at the time of the morning rush hour, between 7am and 8am, with a smaller peak during the afternoon rush hour.

The morning peak is thought to be higher due to market retailers setting up and running refrigerated vehicles.

Environment Minister John Young said: ‘The Island continues to be a place where we experience overall good levels of air quality.

‘But the lockdown from late March 2020 shows us, as evidenced in this report, how changing our reliance on using petrol and diesel vehicles can further improve the air we breathe.’

St Brelade Constable Mike Jackson has proposed using £250,000 from the government’s Climate Emergency Fund for air quality monitoring.

Deputy Young added: ‘It is a very welcome recognition of the importance of this area of work, especially in locations subject to traffic pollution near schools.’

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