Do Air Pollution Have an Impact on the Severity of COVID-19?
The correlation of common air pollutants, such as ground-level ozone, with severe SARS-CoV-2 infection, including admission to the ICU, is reported in a new study published in Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Air Pollution and COVID-19
To understand the association between long-term exposure to air pollutants and COVID-19 severity, researchers analyzed data of 151,105 people aged over 20 years with SARS-CoV-2 infection in 2020 in Ontario, Canada, and not living in a long-term care facility. Three common air pollutants before the pandemic such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ground-level ozone (O3) were considered for this study. The authors adjusted for date of diagnosis, sex, and age, being part of an outbreak, essential worker status, neighborhood socioeconomic status, health care access including previous influenza vaccination history, previous outpatient visits, and other factors.
‘Chronic exposure to air pollutants such as PM2.5 and O3 have a high risk of hospitalization and increased risk of death.’
“We observed that people with SARS-CoV-2 infection who lived in areas of Ontario with higher levels of common air pollutants (PM2.5, NO2, and O3) were at elevated risk of being admitted to the ICU after we adjusted for individual and contextual confounding factors, even when the air pollution level was relatively low,” said Dr. Hong Chen.
With chronic exposure to PM2.5 and O3, there is an elevated risk of hospitalization, and an increased risk of death with chronic exposure to O3.
These results add to the growing reports linking air pollution to COVID-19 severity from other countries, including Spain and Mexico.
“Given the ongoing pandemic, our findings that underscore the link between chronic exposure to air pollution and more severe COVID-19 could have important implications for public health and health systems,” said Dr. Hong Chen.
More research is needed to understand the association between how long-term exposure to air pollution and the severity of COVID-19.