Air Pollution Linked to COVID-19 Deaths Across the World

A new study from the journal Cardiovascular Research revealed that long-term exposure to air pollution could be linked to 15% of COVID-19 deaths globally. As Al Jazeera reported the researchers analyzed health data across the world relating to health and air pollution, COVID-19 and SARS – a respiratory illness similar to the new coronavirus disease.

  • The authors combined this with satellite data of global exposure to particulate matter – microscopic particles – as well as ground-based pollution monitoring networks, to calculate the extent to which air pollution could be blamed for COVID-19 deaths.
  • In East Asia, which has some of the highest levels of harmful pollution on the planet, the authors found that 27 % of COVID-19 deaths could be attributed to the health effects of poor air quality.

Why This Matters: This is one more potential indication of the immense dangers of air pollution–it already is the biggest environmental risk for early death. While air pollution did temporarily decrease during the COVID shutdown, it’s returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The same can be said of the effects of global warming. While some emissions did diminish, it had a negligible effect on slowing climate change, the phenomenon is giving scientists more insight into how pollutants affect the climate.

By The Numbers: In Europe and North America, 19% and 17% of COVID deaths could be attributed to dangerous air quality, respectively. This translates into more than 6,100 COVID deaths in Britain could be attributed to air pollution 40,000 in the U.S.

As the authors of the study explained, the deaths linked to COVID-19 and air pollution represented a “potentially avoidable, excess mortality” and that exposure to particulate matter in air likely aggravated “co-morbidities that lead to fatal outcomes” of infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Addressing Air Pollution: Getting serious about reducing air pollution is certainly within our reach. Just moving away from internal combustion engines for all vehicles would have a significant affect on lowering pollution. As Courthouse News explained, the authors of the study said that without a fundamental change in how cities power themselves, including a transition to clean and renewable energy sources, air pollution would continue to kill huge numbers of people even after the pandemic recedes.

“The pandemic ends with the vaccination of the population or with herd immunity through extensive infection of the population…However, there are no vaccines against poor air quality and climate change. The remedy is to mitigate emissions.” the authors stated.

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