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NASA Images Show Dramatic Drop In Pollution In China After Coronavirus Outbreak

Images recently released by NASA satellites show pollution in China has decreased since the coronavirus outbreak.

The image on the left shows China’s pollution levels from Jan. 1-20, while the image on the right shows China’s pollution levels from Feb. 10-25. The orange and red in the left image represents nitrogen dioxide in the air. The gas is a result of motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities.

As of this writing, China has had 80,151 total cases of the coronavirus, with 2,944 deaths. Due to the virus, factories have shut down and transportation has been restricted, limiting the amount of nitrogen dioxide that’s put into the air.

“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement released by NASA. “This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer.”

The issue has been a serious one for the country’s citizens, with air pollution causing 1.6 million premature deaths a year. In recent years, China has made an effort to cut smog and has been meeting air quality targets in its northern regions.

“People are living longer and older people are more susceptible to the diseases most closely linked to air pollution—the major causes of death in China like stroke, heart attack, and lung cancer,” HEI president Dan Greenbaum said to Reuters. “We have done some projections in China up to 2030, and even with improvements in air quality, you see the number of deaths going up as the population gets older.”

In 2015, the documentary Under the Dome highlighted how China’s air pollution has severely affected its citizens. Under the Dome was banned in China, but its impact spread across the globe.

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Written by Lindsay Patton