Pollution levels may influence COVID-19 death risk, study finds

Long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution may increase a COVID-19 patient's risk of death, according to a study published Nov. 4 in Science Advances.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston estimated long-term air pollution levels for 3,089 U.S. counties. Researchers also analyzed cumulative COVID-19 death data for each county through June 18.

While it's unclear whether pollution exposure directly affects COVID-19 death risk, the study showed there was an association between increased pollution levels and higher virus death tolls. 

Researchers found just a slight jump in air particulate matter was associated with an 11 percent increase in a county's COVID-19 deaths. They suggested that poor air quality may worsen COVID-19 symptoms, leading to poorer outcomes. 

"The results of our study suggest that in counties with high levels of pollution is where we need to implement social distancing measures now more than ever, knowing that people here will be more susceptible to die from COVID-19," said study author Francesca Dominici, PhD, a professor of biostatistics at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told STAT.

To view the full study, click here. 

More articles on public health:
Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, state by state: Nov. 5 
Flu activity lower than normal: 6 notes from CDC's FluView report
20 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Nov. 5


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