Exposure to air pollution is likely linked with the occurrence or severity of COVID-19 infection, according to a report published by Defra, the Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG), and the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP).
The authors of the report collated over 50 responses from a range of organisations including research groups at universities, commercial organisations, industry bodies and local authorities.
According to these responses, the authors have highlighted the significant changes in air pollution emissions from several sectors. The most pronounced changes have occurred with nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which have decreased by an average of 30-40% during the lockdown period.
In comparison, data has shown that meteorological conditions have in fact led to higher PM2.5 emissions during the lockdown.
The authors of the report have also suggested that based on the fact long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with increased mortality from chronic diseases, it would not be surprising if there was a link between exposure to air pollution (past or present) and the occurrence or the severity of COVID-19 infection.
Sarah MacFadyen, head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘This report is vital to show the impact of the pandemic on air quality.
‘As we begin to recover from COVID-19, we must keep these levels down and push them lower, to protect everyone’s lungs.
‘Clean Air Zones (CAZs) have a big part to play in this, but many have been delayed – for example, Manchester have said they won’t be implementing until 2021. These need to be implemented urgently.
‘We also need new legal limits for PM2.5 that are in line with those recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and a commitment, via the Environment Bill, for these to be met by 2030 at the latest.
‘The report highlights that there could be links between exposure to air pollution and how likely someone is to develop COVID or to develop a more severe form of COVID. We urgently need more research to understand this link.’
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