Smart Transport

Air pollution linked to higher COVID-19 mortality rate, says Harvard University

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.



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