Study reveals link between air pollution and increased death rates from COVID-19

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Coronavirus patients in the most polluted regions of the United States are more likely to die from the disease than those in cleaner regions, according to new analysis from Harvard University in 3,080 counties across the country.

Why is it important: The study indicates a correlation between long-term exposure to air pollution and the increased death rates associated with the virus. Its results could affect how the medical resources needed to respond to the virus are distributed across the United States, according to the New York Times.

The big picture: The new analysis has shown that even a slight increase in the level of particulate pollution – much of it from fuel combustion, as well as from indoor sources – has had negative impacts associated with COVID-19.

In numbers:

  • A person who has lived for decades in a county with such dangerous levels of pollution, called PM 2.5, is 15% more likely to die from coronavirus than an individual in an area with one unit less particulate pollution .
  • Lowering the average particulate matter in Manhattan by just one unit in the past 20 years has resulted in 248 fewer COVID-19 deaths to date, the study says.

How it works: To conduct this study, the researchers collected data on particles from more than 3,000 counties in the past 17 years. They compiled COVID-19 death statistics through April 4 for each county, using data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

  • The researchers also performed six secondary analyzes to adjust the external factors that could influence the results.
  • The study will need to be confirmed by other analyzes because it can only determine a causal link without examining individual patient data, its chief researcher told The Times.

Our thought bubble via Amy Harder of Axios: expect a closer look at these links between air pollution and the increase in the pandemic as President Trump continues to lower pollution standards, including returning the week latest energy efficiency standards.

At the end of the line: “The results of the study underscore the importance of continuing to apply existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis,” said the research.

Go further: How climate change and wildlife are influencing the coronavirus

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