Air pollution could increase coronavirus deaths

Air pollution could increase coronavirus deaths

A slight increase in pollutant levels could lead to 11% more deaths from the coronavirus. Evidence on the link between coronavirus and air pollution is getting stronger

(photo: Nello Giambi / Getty Images) There is more and more evidence that indicates the link between air pollution and the coronavirus. And today another arrives: a new study by researchers at Harvard University, in fact, suggests that people who are exposed to air pollutants for long periods of time may be more likely to die from Covid-19. Although the available data only allow associations to be established and further studies are needed to demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship, experts still argue that the information available is now strong enough to be able to state that pollution levels are a key factor in pandemic management. The study was published on the pages of Science Advances.

As we told you, most scientists have long argued that air pollution is very likely to increase the number and severity of Covid-19 cases. We know that breathing polluted air for a long period of time increases the risk of suffering from heart and lung diseases, diseases that worsen coronavirus infections, while short-term exposure to pollution leads to a greater risk of acute lung infections. . In order to confirm the relationship between air pollution and Covid-19, however, it would be necessary to evaluate a large number of coronavirus positive patients on an individual level, so that all the different factors, including age, history, can be taken into account. clinic, smoking and many other features. However, these data are not yet available and, given the urgency of the pandemic, the researchers are using information from groups of people.

In the new study, which involved more than 3,000 counties in the United States, it was found that a slight increase in long-term average exposure to pollutants, namely fine particles, increased the risk of mortality from the coronavirus. In particular, the researchers examined coronavirus death rates in each county, then compared them with the estimated daily Pm 2.5 concentrations in the United States in the period between 2000 and 2006. Analyzes showed that a slight increase air pollution, equal to one microgram per cubic meter, is associated with an 11% increase in the death rate from Covid-19 in each county. "We have a huge amount of studies on the negative health effects of fine particle pollution, so even without Covid-19 we should implement stricter regulation," comments Francesca Dominici, who led the research and was also a guest at the Wired Next Fest. "But now the amount of evidence related to the coronavirus is also large enough to implement targeted strategies on those most vulnerable areas." Such as, for example, reducing pollution and increasing both health care and the availability of Dpi, suggests the expert. "There is a lot of evidence that suggests that a virus that attacks the lungs and causes viral pneumonia could become more deadly if the lungs are already compromised by air pollution."

The interesting fact, therefore, is that even small differences in pollution levels seem to be linked to significantly higher levels of Covid-19, Mark Miller, an expert at the University of Edinburgh, comments to the Guardian. "Even though this study was conducted in the United States, there is no reason to believe that a similar situation has not occurred in the United Kingdom or anywhere else in the world." In fact, as the journal recalls, another study recently published in the journal Cardiovascular Research, calculated the percentage of deaths from Covid-19 attributable to long-term exposure to fine particles, equal to 15%. According to estimates, 27% of coronavirus deaths in China are attributable to air pollution, 19% in Europe (15% in Italy) and 17% in the United States. "Although the link between air pollution and mortality from Covid-19 is very likely, it is premature to attempt to quantify it precisely," comments Anna Hansell, of the University of Leicester. "However, there are many other good reasons to act now and reduce air pollution, which WHO already links to 7 million deaths a year worldwide."

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