Air pollution could be 'key contributor' to coronavirus deaths, research suggests

Recent research suggests that high levels of air pollution may be correlated with an increase in Covid-19 related deaths.

Covid-19 cases across the world now add up to over 2 million. As scientists and researchers around the world continue to find out more about Covid-19, one group of researchers found that there may be a relationship between air quality and mortality rates from Covid-19.

A team of researchers at various universities analysed deaths in 66 regions across Italy, Spain, Germany and France and found that 78 per cent of them occurred in five of those regions. Other studies have linked exposure to nitrogen dioxide, which is a gas released by cars during combustion, to negative health outcomes, and the study also looked at the impact of weather conditions.

Nitrogen dioxide has been linked to lung disease and inflammation for years.

This group of researchers published their findings in the research journal Science of the Total Environment, and found that there’s a strong correlation.

Yaron Ogen, from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany conducted the research. He writes:

The results indicate that long-term exposure to this pollutant may be one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the Covid-19 virus in these regions and maybe across the whole world.

Poisoning our environment means poisoning our own body, and when it experiences chronic respiratory stress its ability to defend itself from infections is limited.

The study compared nitrogen dioxide levels in January and February, with Covid-19 deaths up until the middle of March. They also looked at where pollution was being trapped over certain regions.

Other research also found that high death rates which were found in the north of Italy were also correlated with the highest levels of air pollution.

Almost 80 per cent of the deaths were in four regions in northern Italy, and one was around Madrid in Spain – those regions had the worst combinations of nitrogen dioxide levels and adverse weather conditions which meant that dirty air wasn’t dispersed away from the region it was measured in.

One of the regions in Italy, as well as one of the regions in Spain, were surrounded by mountains, which may trap pollution, according to one of the researchers on the project, but this is only an inkling.

Ogen says that more studies should be conducted "which focus on additional factors such as age and presence of pre-existing and background diseases along with the impact of pre-exposure" to pollution.

For years, researchers have found that air pollution has generally been correlated with rates of infectious diseases and respiratory diseases, and often affects low income communities more than others. However, air pollution has generally fallen in cities and towns around the world as economic activity has massively decreased.

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