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Air pollution levels plummet following worldwide stay-at-home orders

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TUCSON - Wednesday marked the 50th Earth Day we have celebrated and we are seeing pollution at its lowest levels in that span and it mainly has to do with the stay-at-home orders.

With less people driving cars and going to work, we are seeing air pollution clear up quickly around the world, but will it last?

Most of the air pollution we see around the planet is caused by car emissions.

Areas surrounding Shanghai, New Delhi and Los Angeles are seeing clearer air than they have in years.

Ed Avol researches air pollution at the University of Southern California.

"Whatever you look at, it seems like the concentrations have gone down so dramatically that now you see visibility on the order of many miles then you could see before," said Avol.

Cities, such as Tucson, that are isolated from other big population centers are seeing a bit less of dramatic change.

Michael Brauer has a Ph.D. in Environmental Health.

"Areas like Tucson, you're only limited by your local sources," Brauer said. "That's the traffic and obviously there's other things going on."

Even though Tucson's air pollution change hasn't been as drastic as places like Italy, China or India, we are reminded that we can change a lot by just driving a little less.

Max Zhang is a professor of mechanical engineering at Cornell University.

"I say very likely that the air pollution level will go back to where it was," Zhang said, "but at the same time we don't know how big the impact is or how long it will last."

All three experts said seeing this change is a glimpse into the future when we figure out alternative fuel sources.

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Daniel McFarland

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