This is the unseen factor pushing the COVID-19 death count even higher

15% of global COVID-19 deaths could be linked to air pollution exposure

Even before the spread of COVID-19, scientists had declared we were in the midst of an air pollution pandemic, with bad air responsible for 8.8 million premature deaths every year. Now, researchers better understand how these two crises are converging. Across the world, more than 1.1 million people have died of COVID-19, and 15% of those deaths, researchers estimate, could be attributed to long-term air pollution exposure.

The study, conducted by experts at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, the German Center for Cardiovascular Research, and more, builds on a previous report from Harvard University that found that someone living in an area with high pollution levels for decades is 8% more likely to die from COVID-19 than someone living with less pollution.

That Harvard study accounted for other mortality factors, such as the number of hospital beds available or comorbidities such as obesity and smoking, and looked at more than 3,000 counties across the U.S, comparing air pollution levels and coronavirus deaths in each area. The authors of this most recent study, published in the journal Cardiovascular Research, applied that same relationship to the rest of the world, using satellite data on global particulate matter exposure and epidemiological data gathered up to June 2020.

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