Impact of COVID-19 lockdown on NO2 and PM2.5 exposure inequalities in London, UK

Vasilis Kazakos, Jonathon Taylor, Zhiwen Luo

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a nationwide lockdown was imposed in the United Kingdom (UK) on March 23, 2020. These sudden control measures led to radical changes in human activities in the Greater London Area (GLA). During this lockdown, transportation use was significantly reduced and non-key workers were required to work from home. This study aims to understand how population exposure to PM2.5 and NO2 changed spatially and temporally across London, in different microenvironments, following the lockdown period relative to the previous three-year average in the same calendar period. Our research shows that population exposure to NO2 declined significantly (52.3% ± 6.1%), while population exposure to PM2.5 showed a smaller relative reduction (15.7% ± 4.1%). Changes in population activity had the strongest relative influence on exposure levels during morning rush hours, when prior to the lockdown a large percentage of people would normally commute or be at the workplace. In particular, a very high exposure decrease was observed for both pollutants (approximately 66% for NO2 and 19% for PM2.5) at 08:00am, consistent with the radical changes in population commuting. The infiltration of outdoor air pollution into housing modifies the degree of exposure change both temporally and spatially. Moreover, this study shows that the impacts on air pollution exposure vary across groups with different socioeconomic status (SES), with a disproportionate positive effect on the areas of the city home to more economically deprived communities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111236
JournalEnvironmental research
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Concentration change
  • COVID-19
  • Lockdown measures
  • Population activity
  • Population-weighted exposure change
  • Socioeconomic inequalities

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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