Coronavirus and Air Pollution: 4 Reasons This Deadly Combination May be Causing a Covid-19 Surge


Spikes in air pollution, leading to low air quality standards could be responsible for the increased number of Covid-19 deaths in industrialized countries, including the United States. Researchers believe there’s a link between localized peaks of COVID-19 and air pollution due to either temperature inversions or Saharan dust storms.

recent study suggests that people who are living in the most polluted areas are more likely to be infected by Covid-19 when exposed to the coronavirus, and then are more likely to suffer severe symptoms and die from the disease. Previous research has shown that air pollution and weather events that increase air pollution aggravate respiratory diseases. 

Fine Particulate Matter

The researchers behind the present study published in the Journal Earth Systems and Environment wanted to see whether there was evidence for weather events increasing localized Covid-19 peaks. The scientists focused on four cases of significant COVID-19 peaks. These were in Tenerife, Spain; the Canton of Ticino, Switzerland; Greater London, England; and Paris and its surrounding regions, in France where they found a correlation between increased levels and peaks in Covid-19.

According to the findings, there was a significant Covid-19 outbreak in the days following the February 23, 2020 dust storm in Tenerife. There was also a surge in the Canton of Ticino around February 24, 2020, as a result of a thermal inversion trapped cool air on the surrounding valley floor and significantly increased fine particulate matter. The number of cases was significantly higher than in Zurich on the other side of the Alps, which also saw lower levels of fine particulate matter.

Strong Thermal Inversion

The Greater London area experienced a significant peak of fine particulate matter on March 26 and April 9, 2020. There was Covid-10 hospitalization surge in the weeks that followed with a significantly higher rate of Covid-19 related deaths per 100,000 compared to all other parts of England. Paris and the surrounding regions experienced a spike in infections around March 2020 following a significant increase in air pollution caused by high concentrations of the fine particulate matter immediately after a strong thermal inversion on March 28, 2020.

The rising air pollution levels are leaving hordes of people suffocating with symptoms similar to those of SARS-COV-2 besides increasing the risk for Covid-19. Breathing polluted air is not merely stifling the air you breathe. Following are four ways that increased air pollution is aggravating Covid-19:

1.     Causes Cellular Damage 

Air pollution caused severe deterioration of the vital body organs on the cellular level. When you breathe polluted air for an extended period or when you’re exposed to for a long term, you stand the risk of compromise cellular composition which almost always leads to DNA mutations. Any level of cellular damage can cause organ damage and compromise the body’s immune response to root away pathogens and viral multiplication. Those with organ damage and compromised response are at a higher risk for Covid-19 severity.

2.     Increases Inflammation 

Air pollution can lead to endothelial damage, inflammation, which in turn can lead to clogged arteries and heightened cardiovascular risk. Hypertension, which is one factor which poses a risk to cardio-health, is terrible for COVID. Hypertensive patients tend to be low on some form of receptors in the body, known as ACE2, which coronavirus spike proteins interact with and attack the body.

3.     High Risk of Developing Co-Morbidities

People with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, obesity or kidney damage are some of the most significant risk factors for Covid-19 infection and severity. Unmanaged blood sugar levels being the most harmful one. Co-morbidities can make people have weak immunity and more challenging to fight off viral load in the body.

4.     Higher Respiratory Infection Risk

High air pollution levels cause a heightened asthma risk, plus other respiratory conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. A toxic pollution level can damage our respiratory system. Of most significant concern are Particulate matter (PM2.5), soot and other germs can settle in chest and lung cavities and clog linings. This can increase the risk of respiratory and pulmonary complications. Pre-existing respiratory disorders and complications can put you at an increased risk for developing Covid-19 related illnesses. 

Researcher Mario Rohrer of the Institute for Environmental Sciences, the University of Geneva, the director of Meteo data, and the corresponding author of the study says: 

“In combination with a viral infection, these inflammatory factors can lead to a serious progression of the disease. Inflammation also promotes the attachment of the virus to cells […] this has already been demonstrated for influenza, and an Italian study found coronavirus RNA on fine particles. All this remains to be demonstrated, of course, but it is a likely possibility.”