Previous exposure to air pollution may mean a person is more likely to be hospitalized if they catch COVID-19, a new UK report has found.
Researchers from Imperial College London have uncovered a link between people’s exposure to polluted air and how severe they experience COVID-19 symptoms are should they contract the virus.
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Researchers behind the report – commissioned by the Mayor of London and led by Imperial’s Environmental Research Group – evaluated studies from all over the world.
They found exposure to air pollution prior to the pandemic not only increased the risk of someone requiring hospitalization if they contracted the virus but also increased their likelihood of falling ill in the first place.
The findings come from a small number of studies that found when animals inhaled pollutants the amount of protein that the coronavirus attached to in their lungs increased.
It also adds greater emphasis to the growing evidence linking air pollution and heart and lung disease, sufferers of which are more likely to be sicker if they catch COVID-19.
According to a report by IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company specializing in protection against airborne pollutants, Bangladesh topped the world’s most polluted countries in 2020, followed by Pakistan, India, Mongolia and Afghanistan.
Across the Gulf, Oman, was ranked the sixth most polluted country, while Qatar was seventh, Bahrain was 11th, Kuwait 15th and the United Arab Emirates was 20th.
In the UK, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has said the new report makes it “crystal clear” that tackling air pollution is crucial to helping communities build resilience to COVID-19.
He said: “We already know that air pollution is linked to life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease and asthma. But until now previous studies have underestimated the role air pollution plays in infectious diseases like pneumonia, bronchitis and most recently COVID-19.”
“This new review led by Imperial researchers makes it crystal clear that tackling air pollution is a vital part of building our resilience to COVID-19, and other infections like it. The decisions we make now to tackle air pollution are truly a matter of life and death.”
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“We cannot turn a blind eye to the clear evidence showing the dangers of toxic air pollution.”