The authors combined this with satellite data on global exposure to particles – microscopic particles – as well as ground pollution monitoring networks, to calculate to what extent air pollution could be attributed to deaths from COVID. -19.
In East Asia, which has some of the highest levels of harmful pollution on the planet, the authors found that 27% of deaths from COVID-19 could be attributed to poor-quality health effects. the air.
The proportion was 19 percent in Europe and 17 percent in North America.
The authors said deaths from COVID-19 and air pollution represented “potentially preventable excess mortality” and exposure to airborne particles likely worsened “comorbidities that lead to fatal outcomes” infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“If long-term exposure to air pollution and infection with the COVID-19 virus combine, we have an adverse effect on health, especially with regard to the heart and blood vessels” , said article co-author Thomas Munzel.
He said air pollution made risk factors for COVID-19 such as lung and heart problems more likely. Specifically, the team noted that the particles appeared to increase the activity of a receptor on lung cell surfaces, ACE-2, which is known to be involved in how COVID-19 infects patients.
“So we have a double blow: air pollution damages the lungs and increases the activity of ACE-2, which in turn leads to better uptake of the virus,” said Munzel, professor at the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University. , Mainz.
The authors stressed that attributing the deaths from COVID-19 to air pollution does not mean that the pollution itself is killing people with the disease, although they do not rule out such a link. cause and effect.
Jos Lelieveld, of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, told AFP news agency that research suggested that “pollution particles are a co-aggravating factor in disease.”
He said their estimates suggested more than 6,100 coronavirus deaths in the UK could be attributed to air pollution. In the United States, that figure is around 40,000.
More than 1.1 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The authors said that without a fundamental change in the way cities are self-sustaining, including a shift to clean and renewable sources of energy, air pollution would continue to kill large numbers of people even after the pandemic has withdrawn.
“The pandemic ends with the vaccination of the population or the immunity of the herd through widespread infection of the population,” they wrote.
“However, there are no vaccines against poor air quality and climate change. The remedy is to reduce emissions. “