15% of COVID-19 global deaths could be due to that
Does the risk of dying from COVID-19 increase if you inhale long-term polluted air? Such a connection is obvious, but cannot be measured directly. Now it was published on October 27, 2020 in the scientific journal Cardiovascular Research (“Regional and global contributions of air pollution to death risk from COVID-19 ″) published study, determined the proportion of COVID-19 deaths attributable to air pollution from fine dust for the first time on a country-specific basis. The study’s authors estimate that about 15% of global deaths from COVID-19 may be due to long-term exposure to air pollution.
According to the authors (from the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry (MPIC) in Mainz, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Center for Climate Change and Planetary Health, the Charité in Berlin and Mainz University Medical Center), the proportion of COVID caused by air pollution is Deaths -19 in Europe at 19%, in North America at 17% and in East Asia at 27%. The figures are based on estimates of the proportion of COVID-19 deaths that could have been avoided had the population been exposed to lower air pollution from fossil fuel use and other anthropogenic sources.
Andrea Pozzer of the MPIC stresses that the attributable portion does not show a direct link between air pollution and COVID-19 deaths, but rather an indirect effect, which is why he and his colleagues also give comparative figures: “Our estimates show the importance of air pollution on comparisons, that is. Health factors exacerbate each other and thus trigger the deadly health consequences of the virus infection,” adds the atmospheric researcher and lead study author .
The estimates of COVID-19 air pollution-related deaths paint a very different picture to the individual countries: the proportion is relatively high in the Czech Republic with 29%, China with 27% and Germany with 26%. The proportion is lower in Italy (15%) or Brazil (12%), for example. Figures for Israel (6%), Australia (3%) and New Zealand (1%) are in single digits. In their publication, the researchers also give the statistical confidence intervals for their calculations, which are around 5 to 33% worldwide.
Pozzer, who also conducts research at the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, rates the data as follows: “Although our results are uncertain, the contribution of air pollution to COVID-19 deaths is clear. However, actual deaths are influenced by many factors, such as the country’s health system. “
Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry and Professor at the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia, Cyprus, comments on the figures: “As the number of deaths from COVID-19 is steadily increasing, it is not possible to provide numbers final deaths per State Please state the country attributable to air pollution. However, in the UK, for example, around 44,000 people have died from COVID-19 between the start of the pandemic and mid-June. We estimate that the proportion due to air pollution is 14%, which equates to nearly 6,000 deaths. In the United States, 220,000 COVID deaths, accounting for 18%, resulted in nearly 40,000 deaths attributable to air pollution. “
“When people inhale polluted air, the very harmful tiny dust particles migrate from the lungs to the blood and blood vessels,” explains Professor Thomas Münzel of the University Hospital of Mainz, explaining the effects of air pollution on our bodies. “There they cause inflammation and strong oxidative stress, which disturbs the balance between free radicals and the oxidizing agents that usually repair cell damage,” said the director at the Center for Cardiology at Mainz University Medical Center and co-author of the study. This in turn damages the inner layer of the arteries, the endothelium, and leads to narrowing and consolidation of the arteries. The corona virus also enters the body through the lungs and causes similar damage to the blood vessels. So it is also considered an endothelial disease.
“If long-term exposure to air pollution and infection with the COVID-19 virus comes together, then the negative health effects, especially in relation to the heart and blood vessels, add up. This in turn leads to greater tendency and less resistance to COVID-19. If you already have heart disease, air pollution and coronavirus infections cause problems that can lead to heart attacks, heart failure and stroke, ”said Münzel.
“Fine dust appears to increase ACE-2 receptor activity on cell surfaces. This receptor is known to be involved in the way COVID-19 infects cells. So we have a “double hit”: Air pollution damages the lungs and increases ACE-2 activity, which in turn leads to an increased uptake of the virus by the lungs, “adds Professor Münzel.
For their evaluation, the researchers used the results of a US epidemiology study that estimated a link between COVID-19 mortality and exposure to fine dust of the PM2.5 size. This is the name given to particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less. This correlation was compared with Chinese studies that analyzed particulate matter pollution and the results of the SARS-CoV-1 epidemic in 2003 and confirmed that, in areas with moderate air pollution, the risk of dying from the disease compared to areas with relatively clean air were more than 80% higher, but in highly polluted regions the risk was twice as high. The scientists conclude that a link between COVID-19 mortality and long-term exposure to PM2.5 is highly likely. The scientists determined the regional share of COVID-19 attributable deaths with the help of global fine dust distribution data, obtained from satellite data, ground air pollution networks and numerical models.
As the results are based on epidemiological data from the third week of June 2020, the scientists are planning a final assessment of the entire data after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
A clear plea to politicians: “No vaccine against poor air quality and climate change”
In their publication, the authors make clear to politicians: “Our results suggest that reducing air pollution can bring significant benefits even at relatively low PM2.5 levels. The environmental aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated here is that we must increasingly strive for effective measures to reduce anthropogenic emissions, which cause air pollution and climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic will end with population vaccination or herd immunity through widespread population infection. However, there is no vaccine against poor air quality and climate change. The way is to reduce emissions. The transition to a green economy with clean, renewable energy sources will benefit the environment and promote public health – locally by improving air quality and globally by limiting climate change. “