Air pollution may be partly responsible for spread of Covid-19, new study

Air pollution may be partially responsible for the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the U.S, according to researchers at Washington University. 

When it comes to how ill someone gets after contracting Covid-19, medical professionals believe that a person’s health can play a vital role. 

When it comes to how fast the virus can spread through a community, the health of the environment is directly correlated with the reproduction (R) rate of the virus – this denotes the expected number of people each ill person can infect.

In order to understand this link, the researchers looked at where the R rate was greater than one. In those places, they looked at different factors, including pollution estimates.

This research revealed that an increase a 0.25 increase in R rate corresponded with a 10% increase in sulfate, nitrogen dioxide and ammonium pollution and an increase of 1 μg/m3 in PM2.5.

The researchers have hypothesised this initial increase in the R rate is a result of initial changes in condition; when the air is free of PM2.5, an individual is unaffected.

The initial exposure is the catalyst for change in lung health resulting in a change from non-susceptibility to susceptibility, which is reflected in the increasing R rate.

Rajan Chakrabarty, associate professor and lead author of the study said: ‘Annual mean PM2.5 national standards are set at or below 12 micrograms per cubic meter, below that you are supposed to be safe.

‘But in fact, we saw a rapid increase in R rate when PM2.5 exposure levels were below 6 micrograms per cubic meter.

‘Although decades of strict air quality regulations in the U.S. have resulted in significant reductions of nitrogen dioxide levels, the recent reversal of environmental regulations which weaken limits on gaseous emissions from power plants and vehicles threaten the country’s future air quality scenario.

‘Instead of working to resolve this issue, these reversals may be setting us up for another pandemic.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay 


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Jon Cloke
Jon Cloke
3 years ago

If you’d like to read more about this from a preparatory piece, please see my article “Writing anthropandemics – the strangely connected social geographies of COVID-19, plastic waste, and obesity” at

Vincent Ratford
Vincent Ratford
3 years ago

Got a link to the study ?

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