Air Quality and the Coronavirus

Air Quality and the Coronavirus

Earlier this week Damien Carrington, environmental editor of The Guardian newspaper, ran a story with the headline: 'Air pollution likely to increase coronavirus death rate'. You can read the full article here.

In a week of terror-inducing headlines and media features, this was not the most significant one... unless you have been paying attention to global reporting about deteriorating air quality right across the world. In fact, this is a topic we cover regularly on the Sonitus Systems website, you can catch up on our most recent articles by clicking on the links below:

This most recent news report draws on the expertise from Sara De Matteis of Cagliari University, Italy, who is also a member of the environmental health committee of the European Respiratory Society and from Aaron Bernstein of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

The damage that poor quality air has on human health has been well documented and supported by the World Health Organisation, or WHO, over the past decade, however, it now appears that the health damage inflicted on people by prolonged exposure to air pollution is likely to increase the death rate from coronavirus infections. As polluted air is known to cause a whole range of respiratory health complications, infections such as Covid-19 inevitably have a "more serious impact on city dwellers and those exposed to toxic fumes" than on others.

Satellite images of China, which were shared by NASA earlier this month, show how strict confinement measures there over the past two months have led to dramatic and visible falls in air pollution. The level of particulate matter, or PM2.5 in the air fell by 25%, while nitrogen dioxide (produced mainly by road traffic) dropped by 40%. The Guardian article reports that "A preliminary calculation by a US expert suggests that tens of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution may have been avoided by the cleaner air in China, far higher than the 3,208 coronavirus deaths".

It is important to point out that the current pandemic is in no way seen as a positive thing, it has simply provided an opportunity to compare the impact of reduced activity outputs on air quality.

The article also references evidence from the previous Sars coronavirus outbreak in China back in 2003 demonstrating that infected people who lived in areas with higher levels of air pollution were twice as likely to die as those living in less polluted areas.


Does your organisation require air quality monitoring? Sonitus Systems offers comprehensive air quality monitoring, using the latest technology and automated systems. We simplify the air monitoring process, giving you access to real-time data and online reporting. For more details on our air quality monitoring products and services, contact the team at Sonitus Systems


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