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COVID-19 Patients Breathed This Before Getting Sick, Study Shows

Air pollution and COVID-19 can go hand in hand to make you ill.

The rising number of coronavirus cases across America have scientists racing to find a vaccine—and studying why the virus is so deadly. New research shows the answer may be in the air. "There is 'compelling' evidence that air pollution significantly increases coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and deaths, according to the most detailed and comprehensive analysis to date," reports the Guardian. "The research indicates that a small, single-unit increase in people's long-term exposure to pollution particles raises infections and admissions by about 10% and deaths by 15%. The study took into account more than 20 other factors, including average population density, age, household size, occupation and obesity."

"What I was struck by was this really was a strong relationship," said Prof Matthew Cole, who conducted the research with his colleagues Ceren Ozgen and Eric Strobl at the University of Birmingham, UK. 

Why Air Pollution Exacerbates COVID-19

"One factor that could partially explain this is air pollution," reports "Research has shown that long term exposure to pollutants such as fine particulate matter (often called PM2.5, as these are particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) and sulfur dioxide (SO₂) can reduce lung function and cause respiratory illness. These pollutants have also been shown to cause a persistent inflammatory response even in the relatively young and to increase the risk of infection by viruses that target the respiratory tract."

"The pathogen that causes Covid-19 – SARS-CoV-2 – is one such virus," the website continued. "Several studies have already suggested that poor air quality can leave people at greater risk of contracting the virus, and at greater risk of serious illness and death. A study of the US found that even a small increase in PM2.5 concentrations of 1 microgram per cubic meter is associated with an 8 percent increase in the Covid-19 death rate."

The site's new research "looked at the relationship between Covid-19 cases and exposure to air pollution in the Netherlands and found that the equivalent figure for that country could be up to 16.6 percent."

The Most Polluted U.S. Cities

So if air pollution can lead to an increase in COVID-19 deaths, we wondered, where are the most polluted sites in America? The American Lung Association released its annual State of the Air report, and categorized cities with the worst year-round particle pollution. They are:

#1: Bakersfield, CA

#2: Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA

#3: Visalia, CA

#4: Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA

#5: San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA

#6: Fairbanks, AK

#7: Phoenix-Mesa, AZ

#8: Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV

#8: El Centro, CA

#10: Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, MI

Of the states on that list, California and Arizona are two of the states hit hardest by the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Bakersfield, CA, is in Kern County, and "The Kern County Public Health Services Department reported 495 new COVID-19 cases Saturday morning. Also Saturday, the county was 'flagged' by the state for not meeting metrics regarding cases. If that happens for three consecutive days, then Kern would go on the governor's watchlist on the fourth day. Then, she said, if Kern was on the state monitoring list for three days, new restrictions set out by Gov. Gavin Newsom would apply to Kern," according to Meanwhile, Alaska just reported a record 119 COVID-19 daily cases, and in Michigan, "a large house party in the Saline area during the 4th of July weekend has caused an outbreak of novel coronavirus, particularly among young people, in the Ann Arbor area, health officials said."

As for yourself: To stay healthy no matter where you live, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), wear a face mask, practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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