Changes in air quality during the covid-19 pandemic and associated health benefits in Korea

Ji Hoon Seo, Ji Soo Kim, Jinho Yang, Hyunjun Yun, Minwoo Roh, Jung Woon Kim, Songhun Yu, Na Na Jeong, Hyun Woo Jeon, Joung Sook Choi, Jong Ryeul Sohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic was caused by a highly contagious coronavirus that has triggered worldwide control actions such as social distancing and lockdowns. COVID-19 control actions have resulted in improved air quality locally and around the world in the short-term by limiting human activity. We analyzed the impacts of social distancing and transboundary pollutants on air quality changes using open data and examined the corresponding health benefits focusing on two domestic cities (Seoul and Daegu) in Korea where the spread of coronavirus was severe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PM2.5, PM10, and NO2 concentrations decreased significantly by 31%, 61%, and 33%, respectively, compared to the previous three years. In particular, the PM2.5/PM10 ratio fell 24.5% after the implementation of social distancing, suggesting a decrease in anthropogenic emissions. Moreover, we found that the air quality index (AQI) also improved significantly, with a focus on reducing exposure to sensitive groups. In Seoul and Daegu, improved air quality prevented 250 and 78 premature deaths, and health costs were USD 884 million and USD 278 million, respectively. On the other hand, health loss due to COVID-19 deaths was in sharp contrast to USD 7.1 million and USD 543.6 million. Our findings indicate a significant association between COVID-19 prevalence patterns and health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8720
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Air quality
  • COVID-19
  • Health benefit
  • PM
  • PM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Instrumentation
  • General Engineering
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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