Air pollution linked to 15% of COVID-19 deaths: Study


A global study has revealed that 15% of COVID-19 deaths are due to long-term air pollution exposure. The experts have analyzed health and disease data from the United States and China.

The data were collected from satellites. The scientists calculated the global exposure to a particular matter and microscopic particles. Additionally, ground-based pollution monitoring networks calculated the extent to which air pollution could be blamed for COVID-19 deaths.

Cypriot and Germany conducted the research and analyzed data of COVID-19 and SARS.

Pollution effects

East Asia had the highest level of harmful pollution. Secondly, air pollution is responsible for 27% of COVID deaths, researchers found. Hence, the health effects of low-quality air are responsible for the attack on the lungs. The proportion was 19% in Europe and 17% in North America.

The authors said the deaths linked to COVID-19 and air pollution represented a “potentially avoidable, excess mortality.” The particulate matter is exposed in the air. Additionally, this aggravated “co-morbidities that lead to fatal outcomes” of infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.


Air pollution damages the lungs and increases the activity of ACE-2. Additionally, it can lead to the virus’s enhanced uptake, said Munzel, a professor at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz.

Air pollution made known COVID-19 risk factors such as lung and heart problems. The particulate matter appeared to increase the activity of a receptor on lung cell surfaces called ACE-2. This lung cell gets infected when coming across particulate matter in the air. Hence, it is responsible for the infection of COVID-19 patients.

Reduce emissions

Pollution did not kill people with the disease. However, it was an attributing factor. Scientists do not entirely rule out the cause-effect relationship, but they do further research to establish the possibility.

The research suggested that “the pollution particles are a co-factor in aggravating the disease,” said Jos Lelieveld, of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.  Moreover, air pollution is responsible for 6,100 coronavirus deaths in the United Kingdom, the estimates suggest. In the US, that figure is approximately 40,000.

Pandemic and pollution

Poor management of air pollution is killing millions of people. Additionally, huge cities use fossil fuels and non-renewable sources of energy. The need is to switch to clean and renewable sources of energy. These energy resources would help in cleaner and more efficient use of the available natural resources.

To end the pandemic, we need to make a vaccine or rely on extensive herd immunity. However, there are no vaccines against poor air quality and climate change.

Image courtesy of BLACKDAY/Shutterstock

Leena Sharma

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Leena Sharma

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