The council has asked people not to light woodburning stoves or bonfires during the coronavirus outbreak because poor air quality could worsen breathing difficulties.
The sharp decrease in cars on the road has seen the amount of nitrogen dioxide being recorded at Brighton’s official air pollution monitor at Preston Park halve.
But nitrogen dioxide, which typically comes from cars, is not the only air pollutant and the type most associated with wood burning has gone up over the same period.
The average amount of PM2.5 for the eight days from 17 March was 12.48 Pµg/m3 – which is an increase on the corresponding period in 2019, when it was 8.06 Pµg/m3.
Measuring air pollution is an inexact science, as levels are affected by other factors, most notably how much wind there is to disperse particles.
The Preston Park monitor, which measured these figures, has also now switched from recording hourly averages to daily averages, which could affect the figures.
But what is known is that when levels are high, people with respiratory conditions notice more difficulties with breathing.
One resident, who asked only to give his first name Adrian, has installed an air pollution monitor on his roof, and says he’s noticed air pollution readings peaking in the evenings recently.
He said: “At the moment there’s obviously an epidemic which is affecting people’s respiratory health and it’s been proven that the particles from things like chimneys and woodburning stoves impact directly on lung health and cardiac health – two of the most at-risk groups for Covid-19.
“Brighton is the largest city without a full smoke control area in place. The Brighton smoke control area covers just 5 per cent, and none of Hove.”
Last month, researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada warned that air pollution could be contributing to coronavirus deaths, which was seen during the SARS outbreak.
Dr. Christopher Carlsten, professor of medicine and Canada Research Chair in Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease at UBC, said: “The gases and particles in polluted air damage the natural defense systems that fight respiratory viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2.
“Such pollution weakens our first line of defense—our lungs, including the protective cells and fluid lining our airways and the specialized proteins that fight against invading organisms.
“While it is too early to know whether air pollution has had a similar impact during the current pandemic, both Wuhan and northern Italy are areas with relatively poor air quality.
“Other studies on other viruses show that air pollution can increase both the frequency of severity of infection. Therefore, poor air quality can impose an additional burden on the health care system during a time when it is already stretched very thin.”
In a statement, Brighton and Hove City Council said: “At the moment, while we’re staying at home more than usual, concerns have been raised about the health impacts of smoke from wood-burners and from bonfires.
“We’re asking people to please consider the health of local residents with respiratory problems and not light fires if this can be at all avoided.
“On a better note, we’re aware that the government’s restrictions on going out are being credited for better air quality in some areas of the city that are usually affected by high volumes of traffic on the roads.
“While this is great news, it is too early for monitoring to confirm the impact in scientific terms. This will need to be looked at again when we can compare quarterly results at some point in the future after the pressures on service from the pandemic are no longer an issue.”