Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has its paradox. Although it is a killing virus and people all over the world fear it, it has an ambiguous bright side: a decline in pollution levels in China. NASA’s satellites captured images of a cleaner atmosphere over China.
China shut down factories, reducing pollution, NASA revealed
Because of the coronavirus spread, factories have ceased activity, and this led to a dramatic drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution levels. The restrictions on activities such as transportation and business, and the quarantine imposed on people also helped the decline.
Compared with the images taken at the same time last year, those made now can be soothing. When one thinks about the irreversible damage the nitrogen dioxide causes to the environment, one might secretly believe that maybe Covid-19 is not the worst thing that could happen.
It is the first time such a sudden and dramatic pollution decline happened stated the air quality researchers at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Back in 2008, when China experienced an economic recession, a similar phenomenon occurred, but it was a gradual one.
About Nitrogen dioxide
Nitrogen dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula NO2. Millions of tons of it are produced each year. It is used primarily in the production of fertilizers.
NO2 is introduced into the environment by natural causes, including the entry from the stratosphere, bacterial respiration, volcanos, and lightning. In the atmosphere of Earth, it plays a role in absorbing sunlight and regulating the chemistry of the troposphere, especially in determining ozone concentrations.
NO2 is used as a nitrating agent in the manufacturing of chemical explosives, as a polymerization inhibitor for acrylates, as a flour bleaching agent and as a room-temperature sterilization agent. It is also used as an oxidizer in rocket fuel.
For the general public, the most prominent sources of NO2 are internal combustion engines burning fossil fuels. Outdoors, NO2 can be a result of traffic from motor vehicles. Indoors, exposure arises from cigarette smoke, and butane and kerosene heaters and stoves.
Covid-19 and NO2
The damage NO2 can make it significantly similar to what the Covid-19 virus can make to those infected.
NO2 can drive bronchoconstriction, inflammation, reduced immune response, and may have effects on the heart. Exposure to NO2 causes irritation of the nose and throat, edema, leading to bronchitis or pneumonia. High levels can cause death due to asphyxiation from fluid in the lungs.
There are often no symptoms at the time of exposure other than a transient cough, fatigue, or nausea, but over hours inflammation in the lungs causes edema. Pretty much what Covid-19 causes when caught.