Air pollution ‘aged’ hospital COVID patients by 10 years, study shows
The Guardian reporter Damian Carrington presents research showing that patients exposed to dirty air spent four days longer in hospital, the same impact as if they had been a decade older.
In a nutshell:
Researchers measured concentrations of three pollutants (fine particles, nitrogen dioxide and soot) in the homes of patients, and measured the presence of soot in their blood. They also considered factors known to influence the severity of COVID-19, including age, sex and weight. People exposed to higher levels of air pollution prior to contracting COVID spent four additional days in the hospital. Air pollution levels measured in patients' blood were also associated with a 36% higher risk of requiring intensive care treatment.
“Reducing air pollution, even when at relatively low levels, increases the health of the population and makes them less susceptible to future pandemics,” said Professor Tim Nawrot of Hasselt University in Belgium. “The pandemic placed an enormous strain on doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. Our research suggests that air pollution made that burden even greater.”
The big picture:
The detrimental effects of air pollution on respiratory health are well-documented, causing inflammation of the lungs, weakening the immune system and exacerbating pre-existing lung conditions. The new findings emphasize an urgent need to better safeguard public health, not only during pandemics but also in combating asthma, seasonal allergies, influenza and other respiratory infections. Factor in climate change, which exacerbates pollution problems with heat waves and wildfires, and it's clear that tougher enforcement of protective air quality standards will be required in an increasingly uncertain future.
Read more at The Guardian.
For additional information about the effects of pollution on human health, see our guide How wildfires impact your health as well as EHN's ongoing reporting on air pollution -- including this story revealing how human-made pollution can be deadly.