Assessment of health benefit of PM2.5 reduction during COVID-19 lockdown in China and separating contributions from anthropogenic emissions and meteorology

Li Wang , Heming Bai , Wenkang Gao , Yuanpeng Zhang


Received August 19, 2020,Revised , Accepted January 18, 2021, Available online January 22, 2021

Volume 34,2022,Pages 422-431

The national lockdown policies have drastically disrupted socioeconomic activities during the COVID-19 pandemic in China, which provides a unique opportunity to investigate the air quality response to such anthropogenic disruptions. And it is meaningful to evaluate the potential health impacts of air quality changes during the lockdown, especially for PM2.5 with adverse health effects. In this study, by using PM2.5 observations from 1388 monitoring stations nationwide in China, we examine the PM2.5 variations between the COVID-19 lockdown (February and March in 2020) and the same period in 2015–2019, and find that the national average of PM2.5 decreases by 18 μg/m3, and mean PM2.5 for most sites (about 75%) decrease by 30%–60%. The anthropogenic and meteorological contributions to these PM2.5 variations are also determined by using a stepwise multiple linear regression (MLR) model combined with the Kolmogorov–Zurbenko filter. Our results show that the change of anthropogenic emissions is a leading contributor to those widespread PM2.5 reductions, and meteorological conditions have the negative influence on PM2.5 reductions for some regions, such as Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei (BTH). Additionally, the avoided premature death due to PM2.5 reduction is estimated as a predicted number based on a log-linear concentration-response function. The total avoided premature death is 9952 in China, with dominant contribution (94%) from anthropogenic emission changes. For BTH, Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and Hubei regions, the reductions of PM2.5 are 24.1, 24.3, 13.5 and 29.5 μg/m3, with the avoided premature deaths of 1066, 1963, 454 and 583, respectively.

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