Covid-19, can pollution speed up infection?

It makes discuss the thesis of environmental doctors that pollution can accelerate the spread of covid-19 .

The movement of Biologists for Science holds back: “It is not proven”.

Lopalco, ” Polluted air hurts , but the virus runs on our legs”

By reading and analyzing the information that has been arriving on time for several weeks,

one cannot fail to note that the coronavirus pandemic  has manifested itself in an increasingly worrying manner in some of the most polluted areas of the world.

In Italy , in fact, they are the areas of Lombardy and Veneto, and in particular of the Po Valley,

the most industrialized and in which critical environmental conditions have persisted for the longest time.

We should seriously ask ourselves why Covid-19 exploded so virulently in those areas.

The Italian government has done well to decree more and more stringent measures to confine the infection within more controlled areas, certainly not assisted by the senselessness of those who have fled;

we hope that, where they have gone, they have placed themselves in preventive quarantine and have avoided spreading the virus even in areas that are currently less affected.

In the Po Valley, the concentration levels of polluting particles are among the highest in Europe and in the world and this situation has persisted for many, too many years.

It is clear that high levels of pollution also create problems for the respiratory system which could be more sensitive to the complications due to this new virus.

The longer you are exposed to this pollution situation, the more likely your respiratory systems are to become weaker.


Why are older people most affected by Covid-19?

Such reasoning could give explanations to the fact that, at the moment, it is elderly people who have the greatest negative impacts which, unfortunately, also reach fatal outcomes.

The elderly are, by definition, those who have been most exposed to a phenomenon such as pollution and this permanence on exposure could have weakened their defense system.

Furthermore, a recent study by the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine (Sima) highlights a relationship between the exceedances of the legal limits of the concentrations of polluting particles recorded in the period 10-29 February and the number of Covid-19 cases updated to 3 March.

According to this study, in the area of ​​the Po Valley, the expansion curves of the infection showed anomalous accelerations.

Hence, the high concentrations of dust recorded in February would have accelerated the spread of the epidemic.

What do the searches say?

More specific research should be done by disaggregating some data, for example comparing the effects on those who have always resided in these areas, say in the last 50 years,

with those of those who have recently settled there.

If there is a clear distinction between the mortality of those who have always lived in those areas compared to the new settlements,

then we could go deeper to better identify and differentiate the short and long term effects on the exposure of pollutants.

The country that, like Italy, is a special observation for Covid-19 is China.

And it is precisely in China that the same similarity is found in Italy: the areas with the highest levels of emission of polluting particles are the same areas where mortality linked to this virus is higher.

The Chinese province of Hubei, the main outbreak of the virus, is an area which, like the Po Valley, experiences high levels of pollution.


So is Covid-19 related to pollution?

We are well aware that continuing to produce and consume energy produced from fossil sources generates pollution and contributes to  climate change .

And in turn, pollution and climate change have a high impact on public health.

Intuitively I am led to consider the association between high mortality from Covid-19 and the pollution levels found in the same areas very credible.

It is hoped that it will soon be possible to clarify and distinguish whether the deaths that are associated with the new virus on a daily basis are in fact “with” or “from” coronavirus.

What we have found is that the current pandemic has clearly shown that climate change and air pollution are not considered catastrophic events because of their consequences.

Already now politics and civil society should act more concretely and drastically to counter them and instead it is going very slowly.

It is very probable that it will soon become clear that not only these phenomena could be related in their origin, but also in their effects.

The melting of ice and permafrost, for example, could release bacteria and viruses, many of which are unknown, trapped there.

Such a thing has already happened in Siberia in 2016 where a person and many animals were killed by anthrax released due to global warming.

Furthermore, climate change and pollution should not be seen only as environmental crises,

and Covid-19 only as a health emergency: all of them, however, will generate huge social and economic crises.

Only one thing can be done and it is

changing our lifestyle, producing and consuming sustainably  and therefore reducing pollution is certainly good.

Especially with regards to the air we breathe and what we eat.

So, it is right to treat the emergency as such but we also think about how to prevent and not find fertile ground in Covid-19 and the like, which, most likely, will come to find us in the future.

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