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Air quality improves with less cars on the road amid COVID-19 pandemic

Some San Antonio residents saw allergy improvements too, doctor says

San Antonio – The pandemic has led to improved air quality in San Antonio, according to data and evidence analyzed by local experts.

University of Texas at San Antonio professor Afamia Elnakat, with the Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, looked at the data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality from two different locations in San Antonio from the start of the year to now.

Elnakat looked at ozone, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide pollutants as part of her assessment. The first two did not have a significant change, she said.

“In the nitrogen dioxide block, you can see January, February, March and here we go, a sudden drop in mid-March. That continues through out until today, and that drop could be attributed to less vehicles on the road,” she explained.

When compared to 2019 and other years, the drop is not unusual in the summer, when students are out of school.

“But what’s different this year is this drop didn’t happen in May and June. It happened back in March and April,” she said.

Allergist and Immunology Dr. Erika Gonzalez with South Texas Allergy & Asthma Medical Professionals said her patients saw improvements in their health during the pandemic.

“We’re seeing people not be as easily triggered for respiratory symptoms and particular asthma,” she explained.

Since people started staying home at the peak of oak allergy season, patients saw improvements.

“Their symptoms were much better controlled than a lot of that had to do with the fact that they were just spending more time inside,” Gonzalez said.

Elnakat said more studies need to be done about climate changes during the pandemic, but she thinks it could help cities plan for their future, which includes infrastructure, public mass transportation, shift changes and more.


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