60% more Covid-19 risk from air pollution

Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that pregnant New York City residents in low income areas prone to air pollution are more than twice as likely to Covid-19. 

Air pollution has again been linked to heightened vulnerability to coronavirus following a study conducted by scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. 

woman wearing teal mask and gray turtle-neck shirt

Examining the relationship between 3,318 pregnant women’s Covid-19 test results and long term exposure to fine particulate matter PM2.5, no link was identified between the pollutant and positive cases. However, the chances of testing positive did increase by 60% for every 1 μg/m3 increase in long-term PM2.5 exposure among those using Medicaid coverage. The insurance is only available to low-income individuals. 

Previous studies have shown that respiratory morbidity is more common among pregnant people with Covid-19, who have a heightened risk of death compared to those not carrying a child. Preterm delivery, preeclampsia, and stillbirths are also more likely when coronavirus is contracted. PM2.5 exposure during pregnancy also increases preterm birth risk, and low birth weight neonate. 

‘Covid-19 has exposed and exacerbated existing health disparities. Low-income pregnant people may have been more likely to test positive for the virus and be symptomatic due to more exposure on the job or inability to isolate, as well as heightened exposure to a range of environmental pollutants,’ said Joan Casey, PhD and first author of the study. 

Earlier this year, exposure to air pollution was linked to an increased risk of catching Covid-19 in young people. 

Image credit: Michael Amadeus




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