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New research links air pollution with higher coronavirus mortality rates



Beth Gardiner, a journalist and author of “Choked: Life and Breath in the Air Pollution Age,” said she was particularly concerned about what the outbreak of the corona virus would mean for countries with far worse pollution, such as India.

“Most countries do not take it seriously enough and do not do enough given the extent of the damage air pollution is causing to our overall health,” she said.

Most of the fine dust particles come from fuel combustion such as cars, refineries and power plants, as well as from some internal sources such as tobacco smoke. According to experts, inhalation of such microscopic pollutants ignites and damages the lung lining over time and weakens the body̵

7;s ability to ward off respiratory infections.

Several studies have shown that exposure to particulate matter is an increased risk of lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, and even premature death. In 2003, Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, deputy dean for research at the University of California at Los Angeles, Fielding School of Public Health, found that SARS patients in the most polluted parts of China die twice as often from the disease as from places with low air pollution .

In an interview, Dr. Zhang the Harvard study “very consistent” with his results.

To conduct the Harvard study, researchers collected particle data from more than 3,000 counties and Covid-19 deaths for each county in the past 17 years from the Coronavirus Resource Center at the Center for Systems Science and Technology at Johns Hopkins University by April 4 . The resulting model, which examines aggregate rather than individual data, suggested what Dr. Dominici described as a statistically significant link between pollution and coronavirus deaths.

The researchers also performed six secondary analyzes to take into account factors that they believed could affect results. For example, since the state of New York has had the worst outbreak of corona viruses in the country and mortality rates there are five times higher than elsewhere, the researchers repeated the analysis except for all counties in the state. They also ran the model without counties with fewer than 10 confirmed Covid-19 cases. And they adjusted for several other factors that are known to affect health outcomes, such as smoking, population density, and poverty.

Dr. Balmes noted that without studying the individual characteristics of patients, the study could only suggest a causal link between air pollution and Covid 19 deaths and would need further confirmation – a point Dr. Dominici agreed. Dr. However, Balmes said: “It is still a valuable discovery.”

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