April 30, 2020
Coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are more likely to die from the infection than patients in cleaner parts of the country, according to a new nationwide study, COVID-19 PM2.5, that offers the first clear link between long-term exposure to pollution and Covid-19 death rates according to an April 7, 2020 New York Times report.
In an analysis of 3,080 counties in the United States, researchers at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that higher levels of the tiny, dangerous particles in air known as PM 2.5 were associated with higher death rates from the disease.
For weeks, public health officials have surmised a link between dirty air and death or serious illness from Covid-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. The Harvard analysis is the first nationwide study to show a statistical link, revealing a “large overlap” between Covid-19 deaths and other diseases associated with long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5).
“The results of this paper suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution increases vulnerability to experiencing the most severe Covid-19 outcomes,” the authors wrote.
It found that just a slight increase in long-term pollution exposure could have serious coronavirus-related consequences, even accounting for other factors like smoking rates and population density.
The paper found that if Manhattan had lowered its average particulate matter level by just a single unit, or one microgram per cubic meter, over the past 20 years, the borough would most likely have seen 248 fewer Covid-19 deaths by this point in the outbreak.
The District of Columbia, for instance, is likely to have a higher death rate than the adjacent Montgomery County, Md. Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, should be worse than nearby Lake County, Ill. Fulton County, Ga., which includes Atlanta, is likely to suffer more deaths than the adjacent Douglas County.
As more is learned about the recurrence of Covid-19, the study also could have far-reaching implications for clean-air regulations, which the Trump administration has worked to roll back over the past three years on the grounds that they have been onerous to industry.
“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 study said.
What this means to you
A Harvard analysis is the first nationwide study to show a statistical link, revealing a “large overlap” between Covid-19 deaths and other diseases associated with long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5).
MIRATECH can help
Contact MIRATECH for stationary engine particulate matter solutions.