How Air pollution increases the threat posed by COVID-19

Susceptibility to air pollution is considered one of the major environmental causes of several diseases and premature death around the globe. Exposure to air pollution can result in health problems like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  Research has shown that both short- and long-term exposures to air pollutants are associated with a wide range of adverse health effects like higher fatality rates, heightened hospital admissions and an increase in outpatient visits.

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A Harvard study has suggested that air pollution is affecting COVID-19 mortality. This came after researchers have assessed 120 cities in China and found a significant relationship between air pollution and the COVID-19 infection.

The coronavirus deaths across 66 regions in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany intensified and 78% of them happened in five of the most polluted regions.

There is also evidence from previous outbreaks of SARS, as well as many other respiratory infections including influenza, that breathing more polluted air heightened risks of death.

 Reports of the relationship between Air pollution and Covid-10 in some countries


Yang et al found that patients with severe Covid-19 infections requiring intensive care were two times more likely to have had pre-existing diseases like heart disease, strokes, chronic lung diseases, and diabetes—all of which are known to be caused by air pollution.

Tian et al found that places with elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution in the five years before the pandemic had 22% more Covid-19 cases, while elevated levels of small particle pollution saw a 15% rise in infection rates.


The United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics ascertained that without control of ethnicity, long-term exposure to fine particles of inoculating matter would increase the threat of contracting and dying from COVID-19 by up to 7%.

Ogen established that of the coronavirus deaths across 66 administrative regions in Italy, Spain, France and Germany, 78% of them happened in just five regions, and these were the most polluted.

Conticini et al found high death rates in the north of Italy correlated with the highest levels of air pollution while Travaglio et al found air pollution levels in England associated with COVID-19 cases and deaths.

United States

Petroni et al established that an increase in exposure to hazardous air pollutants is correlated with a 9% increase in COVID-19 mortality. (Source; Environmental Research Letters, September 11, 2020)

Wu et al found a relationship between air pollution over many years with an 11% increase in mortality from COVID-19 infection (Source Science Advances, November 4, 2020)

Effects Of Short-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and COVID-19

Recent research has examined the geographical properties of the COVID-19 infection and correlated it with several annual satellite and ground levels of air quality index in the eight countries Italy, Spain, Germany, France, UK, USA, Iran, and China and discovered more viral infections in the regions of high levels. The study observed a significant correlation between the levels of air quality and COVID-19 spread and mortality.

Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and COVID-19

A recent study looked at COVID-19 mortalities in four regions in Europe that have mostly been affected by the Covid virus. These are Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.  It discovered that about 78% of deaths occurred in just five regions of northern Italy and central Spain, where there was downward air pressure, which prevented the dispersion of air pollutants.

Organizations and bodies should also be paid to the poor communities, who are susceptible to be exposed to indoor air pollution, contributing to the tremendous risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 infections. Air quality should be counted as a crucial part of an integrated strategy toward public health protection and prevention of the spread of air-related epidemics.

Research should further be conducted focusing on more confounders such as age and pre-existing medical conditions along with prolonged exposure to air pollutants to confirm their detrimental effects on mortalities from COVID-19.

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