Air Pollution Is Linked With COVID-19 Mortality Rate, Says Study

A small increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 leads to a large increase in COVID-19 death rate, with the magnitude of increase 20 times that observed for PM2.5 and all-cause mortality.

Anushika Srivastava
New Update
Lancet Report Air Pollution India

Apart from lung diseases, long-term exposure to air pollution is being considered as a pre-existing condition that increases the risk of death due to a COVID-19 infection. According to the study conducted by Harvard University, the US, people who have been living in regions with extreme air pollution have more chances of succumbing to COVID-19 illness as compared to their counterparts. Exposure to air pollution for a long duration of time increases a person's chance of experiencing the worst of COVID-19 illness, hence being directly related to the COVID-19 mortality rate.


Key Takeaways:

  • A study conducted by Harvard University found that there might be a link between the level of air pollution a person has been exposed to, and his/her vulnerability to COVID-19 mortality.
  • According to the study, a person who has been exposed to air pollution for a long duration of time has greater chances of succumbing to the COVID-19 illness than his/her counterparts.
  • The study is a further elaboration on the premise that people with respiratory problems are more susceptible to COVID-19 mortality. This, in turn, is mostly related to air pollution. 

Also Read: How The Government Has Prioritised Combat Against Pollution In Budget

How Is PM 2.5 Related To COVID-19 Death Rate?

The study, which included around 3,000 counties from the US  tested data available till April 4th. The purpose of the study was to establish a relationship between PM 2.5 and the COVID-19 death rate. In all, COVID-19 deaths were termed as the outcome and the long-term average of PM 2.5 was termed as exposure. The study found that an increase of only 1 μg/m3 in PM2.5 is associated with a 15% increase in the COVID-19 death rate.

"A small increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 leads to a large increase in COVID-19 death rate, with the magnitude of increase 20 times that observed for PM2.5 and all-cause mortality. The study results underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis," the study concluded.


What Is PM 2.5?

PM in PM 2.5 stands for particulate matter. It is an air pollutant which creates a major concern for people when its level in the air is high. 2.5 is the diameter of the pollutant particles, measured in microns. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to PM 2.5 causes cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases. The extent to which PM 2.5 is harmful can be gauged by the fact that exposure to this polluted is supposed to have caused around 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide, in 2016.

Read Also: Breathe: All You Need To Know About Anti Pollution Masks

PM 2.5 is a major air pollutant that affects humans more than any other pollutant. The major components of PM are sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water. Highlighting the extreme effects that PM 2.5 has on health, WHO says, "Small particulate pollution has health impacts even at very low concentrations – indeed no threshold has been identified below which no damage to health is observed."

An Upside To Coronavirus: Improved Air Quality

As India is going through its 21-day lockdown period, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the air is cleaner. This fact is enough to stress that air pollution can be very effectively dealt with - if we want. Delhi, which has developed its reputation for being one of the most polluted cities globally, recorded an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 38. This is nothing more than a miracle since on an average, the AQI of Delhi remains at 150, that too, on a good day.

Picture Credit- Narada News

Read Also: Are Women More Prone To Hypertension Due To Air Pollution?

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