A study by Harvard University has confirmed the link between areas with higher levels of air pollution and a higher mortality rate with COVID-19.
The study focuses on the US, but shows that a single-unit increase in particle pollution levels can impact COVID-19 death rates by as much as 15%.
US government scientists estimate that COVID-19 may kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans.
The majority of the pre-existing conditions that increase the risk of death for COVID-19 are the same diseases that are affected by long-term exposure to air pollution.
Harvard University investigated whether long-term average exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) increases the risk of COVID-19 deaths in the US.
The study hypothesizes that because long-term exposure to PM2.5 adversely affects the respiratory and cardiovascular system, it can also exacerbate the severity of the COVID-19 infection symptoms and may increase the risk of death in COVID-19 patients.
A statement from Harvard University said: “A small increase in long-term exposure to particulate matter leads to a large increase in COVID-19 death rate, with the magnitude of increase 20 times that observed for PM2.5 and all-cause mortality.
“The study results underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.”
The full study and data have been made publically available.