High levels of air pollution may be “one of the most important contributors” to deaths from Covid-19, according to research.
The analysis shows that of the coronavirus deaths across 66 administrative regions in Italy, Spain, France and Germany, 78% of the 4,443 deaths occurred in just five regions, and these were the most polluted – four regions in northern Italy and one around Madrid in Spain, which had the worst combination of NO2 levels and airflow conditions that prevented the dispersal of air pollution.
The research examined levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant produced mostly by diesel vehicles, and weather conditions that can prevent dirty air from dispersing away from a city. Many studies have linked NO2 exposure to health damage, and particularly lung disease, which could make people more likely to die if they contract Covid-19.
“The results indicate that long-term exposure to this pollutant may be one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the Covid-19 virus in these regions and maybe across the whole world,” said Yaron Ogen, at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, who conducted the research. “Poisoning our environment means poisoning our own body, and when it experiences chronic respiratory stress its ability to defend itself from infections is limited.”
Ogen noted that the Po Valley in Italy and Madrid were surrounded by mountains, which helps trap pollution, as is Hubei province in China, where the pandemic began. “However, my research is only an initial indication that there might be a correlation between the level of air pollution, air movement and the severity of the course of the corona outbreaks,” he said.
Closer to Home
Interestingly, Newport and the Welsh valleys covered by the Aneurin Bevan Health Board is a Covid-19 hotspot , with one of the highest rates in the UK. Like Rome, Newport is surrounded by seven hills (the only characteristic the two Cities remotely have in common), and also has a notorious bottleneck on the M4 motorway, the Brynglas tunnels, where extreme levels of pollution have been recorded.
Data source : Coronavirus UK Map – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51768274
Data source – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-43881650