Air pollution can increase the risk of severe COVID-19 infection

Oneir pollution poses a big problem threat to public healthis associated with a higher rate of heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease. Now, new research also links it to worse outcomes of COVID-19.

In one learn published May 24 in Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, researchers looked at data on about 151,000 Canadians who tested positive for COVID-19 in Ontario and calculated their air pollution exposure by looking at their addresses in 5 years before the pandemic and assess the level of air pollution in that area. It’s an imperfect metric, the study authors admit; Individuals’ pollutant exposure levels vary even within the same area, because everyone’s activities and travel are different. But people who reside in areas with high levels of conventional air pollution are more likely to have severe COVID-19 illness, including hospitalization, ICU admission, and death.

The strongest links are for ground-level ozone, which is a gaseous pollution created in a reaction between pollutants in the sun and the air. The researchers found that people living in places with high levels were more likely to be hospitalized, hospitalized, and even die after being diagnosed with COVID-19 than people living in places with high levels. lower. Higher levels of fine particulate matter, which are small particles that can enter the lungs and enter the bloodstream, are also associated with a higher risk of hospitalization and ICU admission.

However, these pollutants may not be the only ones that can influence disease outcomes, the authors note. Air pollution is a combination of hundreds of interacting gases and particles, many of which are believed to affect the human cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.

The impact is perhaps even more dramatic elsewhere. Canada is regularly ranked as one of the countries with best air quality and has some of the strictest air pollution restrictions anywhere in the world. However, “Research over the past decades [shows] Co-authors Chen Chen, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Diego, and Hong Chen, a research scientist with Health Canada, say there is no defined threshold for air pollution levels. in an email. “This study enforces the idea that air pollution is pervasive and a silent killer.”

The study is observational in nature and therefore cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship. But air pollution may make people more vulnerable to COVID-19 in a number of ways, the researchers theorize. For example, air pollution may increase human viral loads by limiting lung immune responses and antimicrobial activities, the study authors say. It can also increase chronic inflammation in the body and trigger overexpression of the key enzyme receptor that SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter cells.

Francesca Dominici, professor of biostatistics, population and data science at Harvard University, who was not involved in the current study but was one of the first researchers to identify the relationship between pollution and COVID-19. Dominici, who is currently studying the literature, says she has identified about 150 articles from around the world showing that exposure to air pollution causes more infections and more severe illness. .

However, air pollution is not an equal threat to everyone. In North America, studies have repeatedly shown that people with lower socioeconomic status and people of color are more likely to be exposed to air pollution — and suffer from worse health outcomes from it — than whites and more financially secure people. This is partly because they are more likely to live or work in areas contaminated by vehicles and construction, the two main sources of air pollution. Over time, the disparity has become more severe as industries move to places where local communities don’t have the resources to pursue lawsuits against polluters, Dominici said.

While buying an air purifier and filter can help reduce an individual’s pollutant exposure somewhat, but is often very expensive, the most effective interventions would be policies, said Dominici. The government introduced stricter emission standards. Specifically, fine particulate matter is most associated with adverse health effects and should be more closely regulated, she said. “Unfortunately considering that, it looks like we are going to be living with COVID for a very long time, which will be another really important piece of evidence to support the implementation of strict regulations for the health sector. with fine particles”.

Improving air quality is essential, Chen and Chen say, because interactions with COVID-19 could be “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of how negative air pollution can be. affect human health. “Continued air quality improvement is needed to minimize the impacts on air health, before they become overwhelming and irreversible.”

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