Coronavirus patients from areas of the United States with high air pollution levels run a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than those from areas with cleaner air, according to a new national study out this week from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Researchers analyzed more than 3,000 counties across the country, finding a small increase in long-term exposure to particulate matter was associated with a 15 percent increase in the COVID-19 death rate. According to the study, Kern County’s particulate matter is among the highest in California.
The study adjusted for population size, hospital beds, number of individuals tested, weather, and socioeconomic and a number of behavioral variables.
While noting that the epidemiology of COVID-19 is evolving, the study’s authors said results “underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.”
Past research has found particulate matter likely contributed to the spread of the 2015 avian influenza and during the SARS epidemic in 2003, where increases in particulate matter air pollution increased risks of dying from the disease. SARS is a coronavirus, like COVID-19.