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April 8, 2020

Air pollution raises risk of Covid-19 deaths: Study

A recent study shows that air pollution increases the risk of COVID-19 deaths, presenting a greater challenge for the Indo-Gangetic plains (IGP) region of India.
Jayashree Nandi

Air pollution is likely to be a major risk factor for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) mortality, scientists have concluded.

Prolonged exposure to air pollution leads to a chronic inflammatory response even among the young and healthy which makes people living in polluted areas more susceptible to developing chronic respiratory conditions. This theory is borne out by the high Covid-19-related death rates in northern Italy compared to the rest of the country, environmental scientists and physicians in Italy have concluded.

“When a population is chronically exposed to high levels of air pollution, the lung is compromised. The lung develops an inflammation. In short, the lung becomes ready for external attack. Those living in areas with cleaner air are more battle-ready. There have bee high cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), rhinitis and other conditions, which have manifestations similar to Covid-19. Indian population is extremely vulnerable to rhinoviruses but we’ve grown immunity and come out of it within four to five days. But the unique feature of SARS-CoV-2 is that it can be fatal for some people. This is a great opportunity to study how the impact of a new virus is influenced by air pollution,” said Dr Manas Ranjan Ray, former assistant director of Kolkata-based Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute.

India has some of the most polluted cities in the world, particularly in the Indo-Gangetic plains (IGP) region. People living in the IGP region are expected to lose seven years of their life because of severe air pollution, according to an analysis conducted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) released last year.

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