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Air Pollution Leads To An Increase In COVID Deaths, According To Harvard University Study, Experts Say ’Pollution Can Hinder Country’s COVID Fight’

A new Harvard report explains how exposure to air pollution leads to an increase in COVID-19 deaths. NDTV speaks with experts to understand the co-relation and how air pollution can affect India’s fight against coronavirus

Air Pollution Leads To An Increase In COVID Deaths, According To Harvard University Study, Experts Say ’Pollution Can Hinder Country’s COVID Fight’
  • 1 point increase in PM 2.5 leads to 8% increase in COVID-19 deaths: Study
  • The study was done by researchers at Harvard University in the US
  • This is not the first study that depicts link between pollution & COVID

New Delhi: A Harvard University study published recently says that a small increase in long term exposure to PM2.5, the smallest particle that causes a lot of harm to human health can also lead to large increase in COVID-19 related death rate. The study by researchers at Harvard University in the US in September showed that an increase of only one microgram per cubic metre in PM 2.5 is associated with an 8 per cent increase in the COVID-19 death rate.

Speaking to the news agency PTI, Xiao Wu, corresponding author of the Harvard study said, “Given the current limited literature, the surge of PM2.5 level in Delhi may be associated with increased COVID-19 cases. Although the literature is relatively sparse at this stage.”

Also Read: Delhi Fighting A Dual Battle Of Coronavirus And Air Pollution, Warn Experts

He also said the relationship between long-term air pollution and COVID-19 has been documented in many studies, which indicate that adverse health impacts of air pollution can make people prone to the infection or exacerbate the severity of COVID-19 symptoms once infected.

This is not the first time a global study emphasises on the link between air pollution and COVID-19, earlier in April, a study by the University of Cambridge also found an association between living in an area of England with high levels of air pollution and the severity of COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

NDTV speaks with experts to know more about the link between air pollution and COVID-19 and how increasing levels of pollution in India can hinder country’s fight against COVID-19.

Also Read: Air Pollution Rises In Delhi-NCR, Gurugram Citizens Call For Action Against Waste Burning And Tackle It Like COVID-19

AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria says,

Air pollution will lead to an increase in number of coronavirus cases. There is data based on modeling and observational data from Italy and China. Studies have suggested that even a 1-point rise in PM 2.5 levels can led to 6-9 per cent rise in COVID cases.

He further added that both winter and pollution combined can lead to spike in number of COVID cases in the country. Those people who have high risk need to be more vigilant. He added,

Higher risk people need to avoid areas where air quality is poor as areas where air quality is bad are more vulnerable areas and are likely to have more risk of coronavirus transmission.

Commenting on the Harvard study Dr Arvind Kumar, Founder, Lung Care Foundation said that this is not the first time such a data has come up which depicts the link between air pollution and COVID death rates. He added,

The data depicting the link between air pollution and COVID and as well as its mortality rate has been emerging for past few months now. The first report has come from China and then there were similar kind of reports from Italy, and a combined study from England and France that depicted a co-relation between air pollution and COVID mortality rate. These studies have shown that pollution affected communities have higher chance of getting COVID as compared to people living in less polluted environment and secondly if the people of polluted areas get COVID they have higher chance of dying as compared to ones living in non-polluted areas.

Also Read: “Respiratory Viruses Known To Thrive During Winters,” Warns Health Minister In His Weekly Address, Here Are Other Takeaways

Talking about how these studies have a significant role in India’s COVID fight, Mr Kumar added,

We are now approaching towards a season where there is always pollution problems. It is like a year-round issue and we see a rise in pollution levels always and combined with the fact that we also have festival season coming and we anyways have COVID pandemic going – all this together can make the situation worse for our country. What we need is both people and authorities to be vigilant about these facts and come up with ways to protect the community in large.

Raghav Chadha, Senior Leader from Aam Aadmi Party said that the Delhi Government is absolutely aware about these studies and trying to do its bit to control the situation and added,

It is a common fact that both COVID-19 and Air Pollution infects the respiratory health of an individual. Air Pollution is a year-round issue but this time that combined with the pandemic the country is dealing with makes matters worse. All this doctors have been highlighting since past few months that this lethal cocktail of COVID-19 and Air Pollution can prove to be very very fatal. What Harvard study has suggested that even a 1-point increase in PM 2.5 levels can lead to an increase of 6 to 9 per cent mortality rate due to COVID-19, is a very frightening figure. The government of Delhi has taken cognisance of it and therefore we are doing what we can in improving the situation in Delhi.

Further talking about how Delhi has managed to control COVID-19 infection he added,

The World Health Organisation has suggested that in order to consider COVID-19 outbreak to be under control, you need to have an infection rate of 5 per cent for a period of 14 days. The government of Delhi along with the people have worked very hard to bring down this number and now the infection rate in the city has been shifting between 4 – 8 per cent from past 14 days. The cases in the city have started to go up recently but again we are also doing lot many tests and therefore I say the infection rate has been ranging between 4 to 8 per cent in the city.

Air Pollution, Mr Chadha added, “Air Pollution is not a Delhi based issue, it is a north India based problem and therefore we need bigger solutions.”

Talking about the government decision taken on Monday (October 26) to bring in a new law to curb air pollution in Delhi-NCR and the problem of Stubble Burning in the country, Chandra Bhushan, CEO, International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST) said,

I am not too sure about what that new law will be as there are already some laws in place that penalises stubble burning and it is illegal in Punjab and Haryana but still we see cases of stubble burning every now and then. So, I am not sure how this law will be different from the one which we have currently and how it will ensure that on ground the reality is changed. I don’t think a cohesive law will make a difference in air pollution problem in our country, I think what is needed is technological innovations, which can also help farmers to dispose off stubble properly.

Also Read: Air Pollution Killed Nearly 5 Lakh Newborns Worldwide, Over 1 Lakh In India In 2019: State Of Global Air 2020 Report

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


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