15% COVID-19 Deaths Due to Air Pollution: New Study

Around 15 per cent of causalities worldwide due to COVID-19 might be connected to long-haul exposure to air contamination, as indicated by a study published. Scientists, including those from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany, discovered that in Europe, the extent of COVID-19 deaths connected to air contamination was around 19 per cent; in North America, it was 17 per cent, and in East Asia, approximately 27 per cent. The research, published in the diary Cardiovascular Research is the first to assess the extent of deaths from COVID-19 that could be related to the compounding impacts of air contamination, for each nation on the planet.

The researchers noticed that these deaths are proportionate to the population exposed to higher air pollution levels and emissions related to mobile vehicles. These emissions are also a contributory factor towards Global Warming. The researchers said this attributable fraction does not imply a direct cause-effect relationship between air pollution and COVID-19 mortality.

Instead, it refers to relationships between two factors, direct and indirect, i.e., by aggravating comorbidities or other health conditions, which could lead to fatal health outcomes of the virus infection, they said. The researchers used epidemiological data from the previous US and Chinese studies of air pollution and COVID-19 and the SARS outbreak in 2003, supported by Italy’s additional data.

COVID-19
High Air Pollution Levels: Shanghai, China

What do the researchers believe about COVID-19 and its relationship with Air Pollution?

Estimates for individual countries show, for example, that air pollution contributed to 29 per cent of coronavirus deaths in the Czech Republic, 27 per cent in China, 26 per cent in Germany, 22 per cent in Switzerland, and 21 per cent in Belgium. “Since the numbers of deaths from COVID-19 are increasing all the time, it’s not possible to give exact or final numbers of COVID-19 deaths per country that can be attributed to air pollution,” said Professor Jos Lelieveld from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.

“However, as an example, in the UK, there have been over 44,000 coronavirus deaths, and we estimate that the fraction attributable to air pollution is 14 per cent, meaning that more than 6,100 deaths could be attributed to air pollution. In the US, more than 220,000 COVID deaths with a fraction of 18 per cent yields about 40,000 deaths attributable to air pollution,” Lelieveld said.

Professor Thomas Munzel from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany noted that when people inhale polluted air, the very small polluting particles, the PM2.5, migrate from the lungs to the blood and blood vessels, causing inflammation and severe oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and oxidants in the body that naturally repair damaged cells.

“This causes damage to the arteries’ inner lining, the endothelium, and leads to the narrowing and stiffening of the streets. The COVID-19 virus also enters the body via the lungs, causing similar damage to blood vessels, and it is now considered an endothelial disease. If both long-term exposure to air pollution and infection with the COVID-19 virus come together, then we have an additive adverse effect on health, particularly concerning the heart and blood vessels, which leads to greater vulnerability and less resilience to COVID-19,” Munzel said.

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