NO2 pollution and diesel linked to COVID-19 death rate

Pollution layer on a normal pre-coronavirus winter day in the Spanish capital, Madrid. Photo: EFE via El Diario
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New research correlating air pollution levels and COVID-19 deaths in Europe has singled out the Spanish capital of Madrid and northern Italy in its finding of a direct relationship between the negative effects on the body and lungs from breathing polluted air and mortality caused by coronavirus.

The study by a team at Germany’s Martin Luther King University in Halle-Wittenberg and published in the academic journal “Science of the Total Environment” concludes that 78 percent of the 4,443 deaths recorded in a single day in Europe (19th March) occurred in five specific and highly polluted areas: four regions in northern Italy and Madrid.

“Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide may be one of the most important factors contributing to mortality” from the COVID-19 disease caused by coronavirus, concludes the Germany study, which looked at data on deaths in 66 regions across Germany, Italy, Spain and France.

In Spain, the researchers looked at the city of Madrid and surrounding metropolitan area, including the Henares corridor, which typically has high levels of particulate air pollution throughout the winter months, including amounts of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) particles far in excess of levels permissible in Europe.

► News Sources: El Diario, El Mundo and CTXT/Público …

Madrid’s municipal council has acknowledged that the levels of NO2 present in the atmosphere in the Spanish capital “have been increasing in recent years due to the greater use of diesel” and that the main source of the pollution is vehicle traffic. The European Commission has taken Spain to the European Court of Justice for having breached legal limits of NO2 in Madrid and other Spanish cities repeatedly since 2010.

The conclusion of the German investigators seems to support similar conclusions made in a study in the United States pointing to the reltionship between the negative effects of air pollution and COVID-19 mortality.

Conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, the U.S. study that “a small increase in long-term exposure to PM 2.5 microparticles leads to a large increase in the death rate from COVID-19”.

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