Changes in U.S. air pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jesse D. Berman, Keita Ebisu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

495 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 global pandemic has likely affected air quality due to extreme changes in human behavior. We assessed air quality during the COVID-19 pandemic for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the continental United States from January 8th-April 21st in 2017–2020. We considered pollution during the COVID-19 period (March 13–April 21st) and the pre-COVID-19 period (January 8th-March 12th) with 2020 representing ‘current’ data and 2017–2019 representing ‘historical’ data. County-level pollution concentrations were compared between historical versus current periods, and counties were stratified by institution of early or late non-essential business closures. Statistically significant NO2 declines were observed during the current COVID-19 period compared to historical data: a 25.5% reduction with absolute decrease of 4.8 ppb. PM2.5 also showed decreases during the COVID-19 period, and the reduction is statistically significant in urban counties and counties from states instituting early non-essential business closures. Understanding how air pollution is affected during COVID-19 pandemic will provide important clues regarding health effects and control of emissions. Further investigation is warranted to link this finding with health implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number139864
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Oct 15 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for JDB comes from the Minnesota Population Center (P2C HD041023).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • Air pollution
  • COVID-19
  • NO
  • PM
  • Pandemic


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