We already know that the consequences of pollution are devastating, but new studies show that these are connected to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. And it could explain why some parts of the world have significantly higher mortality rates.
A paper, published by Harvard University, says that long-term exposure to air pollution increases vulnerability to experiencing severe COVID-19 outcomes. According to the research, "an increase of 1 g/m3 in long-term PM2.5 exposure is associated with a 15 percent increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate." PM2.5 refers to particulate matter that is formed through burning fossil fuels. It's a type of matter that's linked to high rates of premature deaths from heart attacks, lung problems, and cancer.
"The results of this study also underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations during the COVID-19 crisis. Based on our result, we anticipate a failure to do so can potentially increase the COVID-19 death toll and hospitalizations, further burdening our healthcare system and drawing resources away from COVID-19 patients," the paper said.
Geoscientist Yaron Ogen from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany also published a similar study further confirming the findings. Aside from PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide also has links to COVID-19 mortality rates. Nitrogen dioxide is emitted from vehicle exhaust, burning of fuel, electric power plants, and even cigarettes.
"Results show that out of the 4,443 fatality cases, 3,487 (78 percent) were in five regions located in north Italy and central Spain. Additionally, the same five regions show the highest nitrogen dioxide concentrations combined with downwards airflow which prevent an efficient dispersion of air pollution," Ogen said.
It just goes to show that reducing air pollution will lower health risks in the future. With numerous countries recording a huge drop in air pollution due to lockdowns, now would be a great time to start enforcing strict regulations.
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