COVID-19 has dealt a heavy impact on all our lives and disrupted business-as-normal. This pause in travel and economic activity has led to a noticeable impact on air quality in our major cities. After two months of lockdown in the UK, in mid-May, car traffic in London had dropped by almost 60% leading to NO2 levels dropping, in some cases by 55%.
There are lessons that can be learnt from society’s reaction to the coronavirus crisis – it is not a simple lesson though. NO2 levels decreased but in the context of a shutdown with economic activity paused. This is decidedly not the answer. We need solutions that improve air pollution while allowing business to operate.
The coronavirus pandemic reaffirms the importance of tackling air quality issues. A Harvard study found that a small uptick in particulate matter contributed to a 15% increase in death rates associated with respiratory illness. This underscores that new approaches to reducing air quality to protect respiratory health is essential.
Collaboration between companies, government and industry bodies, is vital to improving air quality around the UK. EMSOL has taken a leading role in this, using our expertise to help organisations prioritise and improve air quality. Founder Freddie Talberg recently spoke at the Tackling Air Pollution through Early-Stage Venture Capital seminar, organised by Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust, highlighting how start-ups can work with authorities toward an end that benefits society as a whole.
Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest hospital trusts in the UK are taking an innovative and leading role to improve air quality in central London. The Trust is committing £40m, evidencing that air quality remains firming on the agenda and a vital for future investments.
During the seminar, Freddie drew on EMSOL’s experience working with Croydon Council, Mace, and the City of London Corporation. EMSOL enables organisation to make a difference to local air quality by identifying specific ways to improve air and noise pollution. This provides teams with the information they need to make targeted investments in improving the quality of their local environment.
COVID-19 highlights the continued importance of improving air quality, but also the need to do so in a targeted and rapid manner. Organisations can then take a leading role in reducing negative respiratory health impact in their local environment. EMSOL’s experience working with businesses and government bodies looking for innovative ways to move forward shows that these partnerships can deliver real change, at a time when it is needed.