Air pollution “may have increased Covid death-toll in Portugal by 11%

Atmospheric pollution may have increased Portugal’s new coronavirus death-toll by 11%, say specialists in a study that puts new emphasis on why the disease appears to have been most prevalent in metropolitan areas.

The details, published earlier this week in specialist magazine Cardiovascular Research, indicate that long-term exposure to atmospheric pollution increases the risk of death from the new coronavirus.

Explain reports, this is the first time a study has estimated the proportion of deaths from Covid-19 that could be attributed to the exacerbating effects of air pollution for every country in the world.

Percentages vary: for example, risks appear to increase by 19% in Europe generally , 17% in north America and 27% in eastern Asia.

The study, coordinated through the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, suggests atmospheric pollution may have contributed to 11% of deaths in Portugal, 12% in Brazil, 29% in the Czech Republic, 27% in China, 26% in Germany, 22% in Switzerland, 21% in Belgium, 19% in Holland, 18% in France, 15% in Italy, 14% in the UK, only 9% in Spain, 6% in Israel, 3% in Australia and just 1% in New Zealand.

But the experts are careful not to establish a direct cause-effect relationship “although it is possible”, explains a report in the online European Society of Cardiology.

“The researchers used epidemiological data from previous US and Chinese studies of air pollution and COVID-19 and the SARS outbreak in 2003, supported by additional data from Italy. They combined this with satellite data showing global exposure to polluting fine particles known as ‘particulate matter’ that are less than or equal to 2.5 microns in diameter (known as PM2.5), information on atmospheric conditions and ground-based pollution monitoring networks, to create a model to calculate the fraction of coronavirus deaths that could be attributable to long-term exposure to PM2.5”, says the online. 

“The results are based on epidemiological data collected up to the third week in June 2020 and the researchers say a comprehensive evaluation will need to follow after the pandemic has subsided”.

But as all agree if both long-term exposure to air pollution and infection with the COVID-19 virus come together then “we have an additive adverse effect on health, particularly with respect to the heart and blood vessels, which leads to greater vulnerability and less resilience to COVID-19. 

“If you already have heart disease, then air pollution and coronavirus infection will cause trouble that can lead to heart attacks, heart failure and stroke.”