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Short-Term Air Quality Gains of COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown of Port Harcourt, Nigeria

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Document pages: 14 pages

Abstract: The air quality index (AQI) of a location informs how clean or unhealthy the ambient air is. While COVID-19 pandemic on one hand threatened the health of mankind globally, on the other hand was a respite to poor air quality of most cities. This study evaluated the positive effects of the brief COVID-19 lockdown on the air quality of Port Harcourt city, Nigeria. Air quality parameters aimed at assessing air quality index of Port Harcourt Metropolis before, during and after COVID-19 pandemic lockdown were monitored and compared. Data were analysed and AQI of sampled locations computed using the US EPA recommended standard procedure. Results from the study showed that, the ambient air quality of Port Harcourt was hazardous for breathing before lockdown. During shutdown of activities, the air quality improved to unhealthy status, with an average reduction AQI of 261.7 points. However, an average increase of 100.7 points, resulting to very unhealthy air status for residents after lockdown was observed. The unhealthy status during lockdown shows that anthropogenic activities were still on despite the Pandemic shutdown of economic activities. Also, decrease in levels of the criteria air pollutants was observed. Before lock down, the range levels of SO3, NO2, CO, O3, PM2.5 and PM10 were 3, 15 - 135 μg m3, respectively. In the period of lockdown, the levels reduced considerably, especially CO and PM2.5 and PM10 (1 - 12 ppm, 5 - 60 μg m3, and 10 - 50 μg m3). Conversely, after lockdown, there was upsurge in levels of the pollutants, especially CO and PM2.5 and PM10 (4 - 16 ppm, 10 - 110 μg m3, 10 - 90 μg m3). Authorities are expected to establish routine air quality measurements stations and communicate daily air quality to residents, for public health precaution purposes. Shutdown of industrial activities instituted by Government in curtailing the surge of COVID-19 pandemic could likely be a novel environmental model for mitigating air pollution in highly hazardous air pollution emergency domains.

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