Coronavirus Fatalities Higher in Heavily Polluted Areas

China Pollution Map Before vs After Coronavirus


People living in areas with high air pollution are more vulnerable to novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, doctors have warned. Accordingly, residents of polluted urban regions have been urged to take extra precautions against the disease. The global lock-down inspired by the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, has shutdown factories and reduced travel, slashing lethal pollution from power plants in China.

In an interview with The Hindu, a medical community named Doctors For Clean Air (DFCA) stated that long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution compromises an individual’s lung function, making that person more susceptible to viral infections. Due to the lungs’ reduced capacity, such individuals are also likely to face greater health complications, particularly related to coronavirus, as compared to their healthier counterparts.

Scientists estimate the U.S. death toll from air pollution at more than 100,000 per year, and the World Health Organization estimates the global toll at 7 million.  The global death toll of an uncontained pandemic remains largely a matter of conjecture. Reductions in air pollution and global heating could save more lives.

Air pollution from power plants is likely to increase mortality from the novel coronavirus in cities, public health experts. The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) warned that dirty air in urban areas that causes hypertension, diabetes and other respiratory illness could lead to a higher overall death toll from the virus currently sweeping the world. “Patients with chronic lung and heart conditions caused or worsened by long-term exposure to air pollution are less able to fight off lung infections and more likely to die,” EPS member Sara De Matteis said.

While there is currently no proven link between COVID-19 mortality and air pollution, one peer-reviewed study into the 2003 SARS outbreak showed that patients in regions with moderate air pollution levels were 84 percent more likely to die than those in regions with low air pollution. COVID-19 is similar to SARS and can cause respiratory failure in severe cases. Mortality data for COVID-19 is incomplete, but preliminary numbers show the majority of patients who die are elderly or have pre-existing chronic conditions such as heart or lung disease. According to the European Environment Agency, air pollution leads to around 400,000 early deaths across the continent annually, despite European Union air quality directives. One COVID-19 hotspot, northern Italy, has particularly high levels of PM10 — microscopic particles of pollution due largely to road traffic.

A study on the SARS coronavirus outbreak in China in 2003 found that infected people from highly polluted areas were twice as likely to die from the virus as those from places with purer air. Researchers also found that the SARS death rate went up as pollution levels increased, rising from 4% in less polluted areas to 7.5% in moderately polluted and 9% in highly polluted locations.

Read the full article on China pollution drop

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