‘17% Covid deaths linked to pollution’
In terms of global regions, East Asia had the highest proportion of such deaths at 27%, followed by Central Europe and America where nearly 25% of the deaths in each of the regions were attributed to air pollution by the study.Updated: Oct 28, 2020, 09:24 IST
Around 17% of deaths due to coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in India could be linked to long-term exposure to air pollution, higher than the 15% seen on average across the world, according to a study published in the journal Cardiovascular Research on Tuesday.
The analysis was based on study of air quality data and distribution of fatalities across the world till the third week of June, which the researchers used to calculate a Covid-19 mortality rate attributable to pollution. The highest proportion of these was in Czech Republic (29%), Poland (28%), and China (27%).
In terms of global regions, East Asia had the highest proportion of such deaths at 27%, followed by Central Europe and America where nearly 25% of the deaths in each of the regions were attributed to air pollution by the study.
The authors say that these are proportion of deaths that could have been avoided if the populations had been exposed to lower levels of air pollution. “...Attributable fraction does not imply a direct cause-effect relationship between air pollution and Covid-19 mortality (although it is possible). Instead it refers to relationships between two, direct and indirect, i.e. by aggravating co-morbidities [other health conditions] that could lead to fatal health outcomes of the virus infection.”
“When people inhale polluted air, the very small polluting particles, the PM2.5, migrate from the lungs to the blood and blood vessels, causing inflammation and severe oxidative stress... This causes damage to the inner lining of arteries, the endothelium, and leads to the narrowing and stiffening of the arteries. The Covid-19 virus also enters the body via the lungs, causing similar damage to blood vessels, and it is now considered to be an endothelial disease,” said Professor Thomas Münzel one of the authors of the paper from the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany in a release.
In India, experts have warned of air pollution leading to such outcomes, Covid-19 infections severe.
“This will be the first winter we will see Covid-19 in India, we still do not know how it will play out. However, like every other year, we will see an aggravation of symptoms in people with existing respiratory or cardiovascular diseases with the dip in temperature and increase in pollution levels. And, a person with compromised lung function is much more likely to have a severe course of Covid-19 infection as compared to a healthy person,” said Dr Anant Mohan, head of the department of pulmonology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.