Spanish study finds that exposure to high pollution levels increases COVID-19 risk

PEOPLE with extended exposure to raised pollution levels may be at greater risk of catching COVID-19.

Exposure to high levels of air pollution is associated with an increased risk of developing coronavirus according to a new Spanish study. 

Researchers found that just a slight increase in the levels of fine particulate matter – PM2.5 –  were up to 50% more likely to have a severe case of COVID. 

After collecting data from nearly 10,000 people in Spain with confirmed cases of COVID, scientists at the Barcelona Institute of Global Health discovered the ‘strongest evidence yet’ that air pollution was linked to more serious COVID cases. 

Researchers examined data from 9,605 participants in Catalunya between May and November 2020 and found 481 confirmed cases of coronavirus. 

Blood samples from over 4,000 participants were also taken to determine the presence and quantity of IgM, IgA and IgG antibodies to five viral antigens that cause the body to make an immune response against it.

The study, led by Dr Manolis Kogevinas, then combined this information with data on pollution levels in the areas where the volunteers lived.

Out the 4,000 participants who supplied blood samples, 18% had virus-specific antibodies, but no association was found between infection and exposure to air pollutants, the researchers said.

However, among those who got infected, an association was found between higher exposure to NO2 and PM2.5 and increased levels of IgG specific for the five viral antigens, which is an indication of higher viral burden and symptom severity.

Dr Kogevinas said: “Our study provides the strongest evidence globally on the association of ambient air pollution and Covid”. 


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