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EXPLAINED: The Link Between Air Pollution & Corona Virus

EXPLAINED: The Link Between Air Pollution & Corona Virus 626 389 kupplinadmin

Even though healthcare professionals have not been entirely able to understand Covid-19 entirely, recent studies in England now show that there is a link between air pollution and covid-19. As is, air pollution has been found to directly affect death rates. 

The researchers decided to explore the link between fossil-fuel based air pollutants and the coronavirus infection. They took Coronavirus cases and deaths from public records in England and compared those to regional and sub-regional air pollution data that had been monitored around England. 

After accounting for age, median income, and population density, the researchers were able to show a relationship between the concentration of air pollution and the infection rate as well as mortality from Covid-19. It was found that particulate matter2.5 or PM2.5 -which are fine inhalable particles that are 2-5 millimeters or less in diameter-was a major contributor in Covid-19 cases in England, while an increase of one meter per cube of these particles in the air contributed to a 12 percent increase in Covid-19 cases.

The study concluded that even a small increase in air pollution leads to a significant increase in the infectivity and mortality related to Covid-19. This study is a great guide for various countries where air pollution may be high.

 It is no secret that chronic exposure to air pollution can lead to respiratory or cardiovascular toxicity, to the point where the Lancet Commission conducted an analysis, which showed that at least 16% of deaths worldwide occur due to air pollution.

Pollutants spread by road transport contain nitrogen oxides and ground-level ozone amongst other harmful substances. Being exposed to these for extended periods can lead to inflamed airways and may exacerbate pre-existing health conditions of the respiratory and pulmonary systems.

Since Covid-19 also affects the respiratory system, air pollutants may make the symptoms of Covid-19 worse or may make someone who has been affected by pollution more likely to contract the virus. In the same vein, it was hypothesized that air pollution may make a person more likely to develop complications due to Covid-19.

Initial reports support this hypothesis, with countries showing that the spread of Covid-19 and its mortality rate correspond to the levels of pollution in the air. Italy, at least the northern parts of it, shows increased contagiousness and increased mortality rate corresponding with the level of pollution there. 

It is true that levels of air pollution have decreased by some extent owing to the lockdowns imposed around the world and the sudden drop in all sorts of travel but it is also a fact that there are still far too many contaminations in the air that will need to be removed in some way for the air to be of safe breathing quality. In fact, several countries still do not match the levels of air quality recommended by the World Health Organization.

Furthermore, of late it has also been observed that PM presence in the air can lead to higher viability of the coronavirus, which suggests that people will be more likely to contract the virus in polluted areas.

So air pollution, directly and indirectly, contributes to the severity of the symptoms of Covid-19. It can either make the immune response of the lungs weak due to the prolonged exposure to pollutants or it can make underlying respiratory or cardiovascular diseases worse. 

Even though the link between air pollution and the coronavirus does exist, most of the studies undertaken on the subject did not account for multiple factors that may have affected the outcome while some chose very large geographical regions. So there is definitely room for a lot of work on the subject to truly understand how air pollution affects the coronavirus. 

The best way to do this would be to measure air quality levels using sensors that can then be tallied with data collected at centers that are specifically treating the coronavirus. It will obviously take a lot of data consolidation and results will not be available overnight, however, this step may bring us one step closer to understanding the elusive virus. This, although not part of the study, also reiterates that wearing a mask is of extreme importance especially if you live in a polluted area, even if you are not at risk of contracting the virus. Wearing the mask will also help keep your lungs healthy and ensure that they are not immunocompromised.

– Nida Khan

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