Study: Air pollution may contribute to Covid-19 deaths

Published Oct 28, 2020


CAPE TOWN - A recent study published in the journal

Cardiovascular Research, experts analysed the effects of air pollution on Covid-19 infected patients in China and the USA.

The researchers collected data from various sources such as satellite data of global exposure to microscopic particle and ground-based pollution networks to determine the extent of which air pollution could be the cause of Covid-19 fatal outcomes.

The scientists discovered in East Asia, 27 percent of Covid-19 deaths could be due to the health effects caused by poor air quality with the particular region displaying one of the highest levels of harmful pollution while 19 percent of deaths in Europe caused by air quality and 17 percent in North America

The Covid-19 deaths caused by air pollution could be avoided and seen as excess mortality with the exposure to these harmful microscopic particles in the air most likely aggravates the comorbidities that lead to fatal outcomes in Covid-19 patients according to the authors of the study.

Thomas Munzel, the co-author of the paper, says, “If both long-term exposure to air pollution and infection with the COVID-19 virus come together then we have an adverse effect on health, particularly with respect to the heart and blood vessels."

Air pollution increased the risk factors in Covid-19 such as lung and heart complications said Munzel with the team of researchers discovering that the particulate matter found in air pollution increased the activity of ACE-2 which is a primary receptor of SARS-CoV-2 which is how the virus enters and infects the body.

“So, we have a double hit: air pollution damages the lungs and increases the activity of ACE-2, which in turn leads to enhanced uptake of the virus,” said Munzel.

The authors said that air pollution played a role in increasing the death toll of Covid-19 but acknowledged that cleaner air is not the solution to the outbreak but could help avoid health complications beyond the pandemic.

“The pandemic ends with the vaccination of the population or with herd immunity through extensive infection of the population,” it said in the study, “However, there are no vaccines against poor air quality and climate change. The remedy is to mitigate emissions.”

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