Long-term exposure to urban air pollutants may make Covid-19 more severe for some population

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on October 11, 2020

Long term exposure to urban air pollution may make Covid-19 more deadly according to researchers at Emory University.

In a study published in the journal The Innovation, researchers detailed the correlation between long-term exposure to certain air pollutants and Covid-19 severity in the population. “Both long-term and short-term exposure to air pollution has been associated with direct and indirect systemic impact on the human body by enhancing oxidative stress, acute inflammation, and respiratory infection risk,” said Donghai Liang of Emory University, co-first author on the paper along with Liuhua Shi.

The researchers analyzed key urban air pollutants, including fine particle matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3), across 3,122 counties in the United States from January to July.

They examined the correlation to determine the severity of Covid-19 outcomes including the case-fatality rate which is the number of deaths among the people who are diagnosed with the disease and the mortality rate which is the number of Covid-19 deaths in the population.

NO2 had the strongest independent correlation with raising a person's susceptibility to death from the infection out of the pollutions that were analysed.

“A 4.6 parts per billion (ppb) increase of NO2 in the air was associated with 11.3 per cent and 16.2 per cent increases in Covid-19 case-fatality and mortality rate, respectively,” said an official release.

The researchers further determined that a mere 4.6 ppb reduction in long-term exposure to NO2 would have prevented 14,672 deaths among those who tested positive for the virus.

"Long-term exposure to urban air pollution, especially nitrogen dioxide, might enhance populations' susceptibility to severe Covid-19 death outcomes," said Liang. "It's essential to deliver this message to public health practitioners and policymakers in order for them to consider protecting vulnerable populations that lived in historically high NO2 pollution."

"The continuations and expansions of current efforts to lower traffic emissions and ambient air pollution might be an important component of reducing the population-level risk of Covid-19 case-fatality and mortality in the United States," Liang added.

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Published on October 11, 2020
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