The Indy Star found that restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have led to a 38% drop in emissions of nitrogen dioxide.
Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order issued March 23 has led to a reduction in the amount of people driving around in cars, which emit pollutants.
The state’s main air monitor for Indianapolis showed the city had 38% less nitrogen dioxide emissions than the same time last year.
Nitrogen dioxide primarily gets into the air through the burning of fuel, and can irritate airways in the respiratory system and aggravate respiratory diseases, like asthma.
Long-term exposure to the pollution could lead to people developing asthma or even increase the risk of respiratory infections.
Nitrogen dioxide is one of six criteria air pollutants required by law to be regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
A recent Harvard University study found that people living in parts of the U.S. with high levels of air pollution are more likely to see patients die from COVID-19.
An increase in long-term exposure to atmospheric particulate matter leads to a large increase in the COVID-19 death rate.
The state of Indiana’s two most populous and polluted counties rank first and second for positive cases of COVID-19 and number of COVID-19 deaths.
Marion County has more than a third of the state’s total infected rate and about 35% of total COVID-19 deaths.
Lake County has the second highest rate of positive cases and COVID-19 deaths in the state.
Marion County averages 10.4 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter pollution, while Lake County averages 9.4 micrograms per cubic meter.
The counties are also home to the two sites where monitored PM2.5 levels were the highest in the state.
The Interstate 70 East monitors in Marion County showed an average 12.6 micrograms per cubic meter. The second highest was in Lake County. East Chicago’s Aldis Street monitor showed an average 12 micrograms per cubic meter.
The United Health Foundation ranks Indiana 43rd worst in the nation for air pollution.