Air pollution linked to higher COVID-19 death rate
Researchers have found a link between the COVID-19 death rate and air pollution.
COVID-19 specifically attacks the lungs. If your lungs are already compromised (due to smoking, asthma, etc.), you may have a harder time fighting the disease. Your lungs can also be at risk just based on the air you breathe.
Bigger cities are usually more polluted. This makes sense-- more people, more cars, and more factories lead to more toxins released into the air. Living in a polluted city for a long time means more exposure to these toxins. According to the World Health Organization, there are millions of deaths around the world each year caused by air pollution.
A study by Harvard showed the first link between air pollution and higher COVID-19 death rates.
Particulate matter (sometimes called particle pollution) are tiny dust particles and liquid droplets that exist in the air. They are so tiny that they cannot be seen, and can easily go through your nose and throat.
Not only is the air you are breathing in a polluted city already dirtier, but particulate matter can also act as a great carrier for the virus. This makes communal spread much easier for the virus. The study also showed that cities with increased particle pollution counts have a 15% increased death rate due to COVID-19.
What does this mean, exactly? Living your entire life in a polluted area means you have regularly been breathing “bad” air. Because of this, your lungs have been impacted. If contracted, you have an increased chance of severe symptoms or death from COVID-19 compared to contracting it while living in a less polluted city.
This study was for those who had long-term exposure to polluted air, so the risk doesn’t apply if you visited a polluted area for a short time.The State of the Air report for 2019 gives a report card grade to cities across the nation. Less pollution means a better grade. For 2019, grades ranged from B to F in Michiana. Note that pollution data was only available for St. Joseph, Berrien, Cass, Elkhart, and LaPorte Counties. Even with “failing” grades, the pollution risk is not as great as it would be living in even larger cities in the United States.
Our counties with higher pollution are likely linked to proximity to factories in northwestern Indiana and Chicago. Wind from the west continually pushes pollutants into counties like LaPorte or Berrien, making the air a little unhealthier.
If there is any good news from the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be that pollution levels are dropping due to social distancing. Stay-at-home orders and less travel means cleaner air, which may help our breathing in the future.