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Covid-19 highlights the urgent need to reduce air pollution

The Covid-19 pandemic highlights the urgent need to control air pollution, warns a group of international researchers. 

In one of the most prominent studies to date, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that each small (1 ?g/m3) increase of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was associated with an 8% increase in mortality during the pandemic.

The exact reason behind the association between long-term pollution and poor Covid-19 outcomes are not fully known, however, scientists have suggested that long-term exposure to air pollution may impair the immune system, leading both to increased susceptibility to viruses and to more severe viral infections.

The researchers have also highlighted that racially and ethnically diverse communities are more likely to be located in areas closer to industrial pollution such as PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide, and to work in types of businesses that expose them to more air pollution. These inequalities in residential and occupational air pollution exposure may be one of the causes of the stark disparities of the Covid-19 pandemic along racial and ethnic lines.

Stephen Andrew Mein, MD, a physician in BIDMC’s Department of Medicine, said: ‘A multitude of studies show that exposure to higher long-term ambient air pollution is associated with both increased risk of infection and death from Covid-19.

‘Historically, air pollution has been linked with worse health outcomes, including higher mortality, due to other respiratory viruses like influenza. Now, new research on Covid-19 adds further evidence of the adverse effects of ambient air pollution and the urgent need to address the public health crisis of pollution.’

Mary Rice, senior author of the commentary said: ‘Research evaluating associations between the dramatic reduction in ambient air pollution during global lock-downs and health care utilization for respiratory conditions would further confirm the impact of ambient air pollution on non-communicable diseases and the need to reduce air pollution to improve overall health.

‘While the primary association between air pollution and Covid-19 outcomes has been generally consistent, there is still much research to be done.

‘In particular, there is a need for studies that adjust for individual-level risk factors, since current studies have been restricted to county or municipal-level exposure and outcome data. Research is also needed to evaluate whether air pollution contributes to the stark differences in Covid-19 outcomes among communities of colour.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay 

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Barbokelly
Barbokelly
5 months ago

Is any pressure being put on the government to change criteria for measuring air quality levels . At the moment in our area they are distance corrected back to the nearest fascia, ignoring the levels for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers . The tubes are put at 3 metres and not at breathing level . Surely this ignores all the evidence that shorter periods of high pollution can affect health .

Clive Stott
5 months ago
Reply to  Barbokelly

First thing needed is to get rid of the overly complicated Air Quality Index (AQI) used to measure air pollution. Why do measurements, then do fancy computations to arrive at a figure that people don’t understand.
Use the raw data as we do in Tasmania. Check it out here: https://epa.tas.gov.au/epa/air/monitoring-air-pollution/real-time-air-quality-data-for-tasmania

t2 Group
4 months ago

The first thing needed is to get rid of the overly complicated Air Quality Index (AQI) used to measure air pollution. Why do measurements, then do fancy computations to arrive at a figure that people don’t understand.
Use the raw data as we do in Tasmania. Check it out here: https://epa.tas.gov.au/epa/air/monitoring-air-pollution/real-time-air-quality-data-for-tasmania and also for the extensive details
https://t2group.us/

Clive Stott
2 months ago
Reply to  t2 Group

🙂 t2group
It is essential to do real-time ambient air quality monitoring, but we must have AQ standards that give us real-time health protection.
We know WHO 24 hour averaged standards do not cut it because you can have very high readings during part of the 24 hour period.
So what can we do about that? We can set our own health standards, i.e, a 1 hour health standard for PMs for example as we have done and this can be seen at the above epa site. It is a matter of keeping our credibility and opening up meaningful discussion with these departments. It is not easy on either side and it is a long process but it is worth fighting for.
As great as this is I still debate our bracketed PM 2.5 health categories :-
The categories are based on the hour-averaged PM2.5 value:

  • Good: 0 to 9 micrograms per cubic metre
  • Fairly Good: 10 to 24 micrograms per cubic metre
  • Fairly Poor: 25 to 49 micrograms per cubic metre
  • Poor: 50 to 99 micrograms per cubic metre
  • Very Poor: 100 to 299 micrograms per cubic metre​
  • Extremely Poor: Over 300 micrograms per cubic metre

Knowing there is no minimum safe level of particle pollution and it has been accepted that anything below 5Ug/m3 is clean air I DESERVE CLEAN AIR!