The Institute - December 2020 - TI-13
the positive impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on air quality using measurements from the European TROPOMI and
GOME-2 satellite sensors.
Falling rain absorbs the airborne pollutants and drives
them to the Earth's surface, falsely deflating the observed
concentration of pollutants.
To rule out the possibility that weather might be responsible for some of the emission decreases over Asia, Europe,
and the Americas, Loyola and his colleagues built computer
models that transformed pre-COVID air pollution from TROPOMI satellite data from 2019 and GOME-2 satellite data from
2015-2019 using observed weather patterns from 2020. The
resulting models provide a weather-adjusted simulation
of nitrogen dioxide concentrations in a hypothetical 2020
where the coronavirus pandemic-or at least the shutdowns in
response to it-never occurred.
With the same weather conditions, the actual 2020 levels
were much lower than those in the simulated no-shutdown
models, confirming that the drop in manufacturing and transportation in Europe, North and South America, and East
and South Asia was indeed responsible for the cleaner air.
IMPACT ON COVID-19 PATIENTS
Exposure to air pollution can impact the health outcomes
of people who develop the disease. " The study showed the
positive impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on the air quality, "
Loyola says. But he notes that the drop in air pollution will
be temporary-the positive effects gradually rebounded with
lifted restriction measures-and that long-term emissions are
still a serious health concern.
" There's consensus that there's an impact of air pollution
on the severity of COVID-19 for individuals, " agrees atmospheric scientist Christa Hasenkopf, codirector of the openaccess air quality data platform OpenAQ.
While the sudden decrease in air pollution may ease the
suffering of those infected with the novel coronavirus, Hasenkopf says, the illness is especially harmful on those with the
same type of chronic respiratory and cardiovascular conditions that result from long-term exposure to pollution.
The WHO estimates that 90 percent of people worldwide
breathe polluted air, with the bulk of pollution affecting lowerincome countries. The statistics could point researchers to
where resources are most needed, Hasenkopf says.
" We're asking, 'How does air pollution affect folks with
COVID-19, and how does that help us prioritize areas that
may experience more severe outbreaks?' "
- LYNNE PESKOE-YANG
This article originally appeared online as " COVID-19's Effect on Air
Quality Can Be Seen From Space. "
N SEVERE CASES of COVID-19, the virus causes respiratory distress, making it difficult for patients to breathe.
Pulmonary therapy such as deep-breathing exercises can
help prevent severe respiratory complications, according
to the American Lung Association.
The Advanced Internet Technology in the Interests of
Society Laboratory-at Sonoma State University, in Rohnert
Park, Calif.-has developed InSee, an auxiliary device that
attaches to an incentive spirometer. Spirometers can help
patients improve their lung function by measuring their air
volume as they breathe. InSee helps doctors track patients'
progress and can remind a patient to use the spirometer
and record how well his lungs are performing.
IEEE Member Farid Farahmand is director of the lab,
which develops Internet-based technology solutions for
educational, environmental, and health care problems.
The Institute asked Farahmand about InSee. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What problem are you trying to solve?
COVID-19 patients are often bedbound, which limits their
daily movement and often results in minimal lung expansion. This can lead to severe pneumonia, acute respiratory
distress syndrome, and mechanical ventilation.
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