A major global study has revealed that long-term exposure to air pollution may be linked to 15% of COVID-19 deaths in the world.
As per the study published in Cardiovascular Research Journal, the proportion in Europe was about 19 per cent, 17 per cent in North America, and 27 per cent in East Asia.
Study author Jos Lelieveld from Germany’s Max Planck Institute said, “Since the numbers of deaths from COVID-19 are increasing all the time, it’s not possible to give exact or final numbers of COVID-19 deaths per country that can be attributed to air pollution.”
“However, as an example, in the UK there have been over 44,000 coronavirus deaths and we estimate that the fraction attributable to air pollution is 14%, meaning that more than 6,100 deaths could be attributed to air pollution,” Jos added.
The study found air pollution to be linked to 29 per cent of coronavirus deaths in the Czech Republic, 27 per cent in China, 26 per cent in Germany, 19 per cent in The Netherlands, 15 per cent in Italy and 14 per cent in the UK.
Lelieveld referred to previous studies that suggest the fine particulates in air pollution can lead to a prolonged lifetime of infectious viruses in the atmosphere, which leads to a higher number of infected individuals. “It’s likely that particulate matter plays a role in ‘super-spreading events’ by favouring transmission,” he said.
As per the researchers, the particulate matter present in polluted air seems to increase the activity of the ACE-2 receptor on cell surfaces.
“So, we have a ‘double hit’: air pollution damages the lungs and increases the activity of ACE-2, which in turn leads to enhanced uptake of the virus by the lungs and probably by the blood vessels and the heart,” the authors wrote in their study.