Air pollution likely to make coronavirus worse, say UK government advisers

Air pollution is likely to be increasing the number and severity of Covid-19 infections, according to the UK government’s expert advisers.

In a report published on Wednesday, the experts said further investigation of the link between dirty air and the coronavirus pandemic was “urgently required” and may be relevant to how the pandemic is managed.

The report also found that levels of nitrogen oxides, produced mainly by diesel vehicles, fell by 30-40% in urban areas during the lockdown, though they are likely to be rising again as the restrictions are eased.

The reports add to pressure on ministers to address the issue of air pollution and coronavirus, following calls from MPs for action and warnings from lawyers that the government has a legal obligation to urgently review its air quality strategy.

There is growing evidence from around the world linking exposure to dirty air to increased coronavirus infections and deaths, with some suggesting it plays a significant role. But ruling out other possible factors is complex and time-consuming, meaning a definitive conclusion is yet to be reached.

Exposure to air pollution is firmly linked to increases in respiratory and heart disease and these factors can increase the risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms, said Prof Alastair Lewis of the University of York, the chair of the UK government’s independent science advisory group on air pollution. “Given this, it would not be surprising if there was a link between exposure to air pollution – past or present – and the Covid-19 infection.”

The section of the report on this issue was written by another government advisory group, the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, chaired by Prof Frank Kelly, of Imperial College London, and composed of 15 academic experts.

“Although there is, as yet, no clear empirical evidence that exposure to air pollutants increases the likelihood or severity of Covid-19 infection, knowledge of the impacts of air pollution on health suggests that this is likely,” the group concluded.

“Potential interactions between air pollution and Covid-19 may be relevant to the future management of the pandemic in the UK and elsewhere,” said the committee. Medical resources might be raised in polluted areas, for example.

Long-term air pollution may worsen the impact of Covid-19 on patients, while short-term pollution may irritate the lungs and increase the risk of infection. Traces of the virus have also been found in samples of air pollution, raising questions about airborne spread outdoors. “Further investigation into all of the possible mechanisms is urgently required,” said the committee.

In June, lawyers acting for Mums for Lungs and the Good Law Project told ministers that the potential risk to life posed by air pollution during the pandemic means ministers must act even if the evidence is not yet conclusive. Dirty air is already estimated to cause 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK.

Ninety parliamentarians have also urged the government to back action on air pollution to help avoid a second wave of coronavirus, while an air pollution inquiry by a select committee of MPs is examining delays in the rollout of clean air zones in cities as a result of the pandemic.

The failure to consider air pollution as a factor in the higher rates of coronavirus deaths among minority ethnic groups, who are disproportionately exposed, was recently called “astonishing” and “wholly irresponsible” by critics of a Public Health England review.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Enter Your Information Below To Receive Free Trading Ideas, Latest News, And Articles.

Please Enter Your Email Address:




Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us and our affiliates. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!

Latest

Gene manipulation using algae could grow more crops with less water

Tobacco plants have been modified with a protein found in algae to improve their photosynthesis and increase growth, while using less water, in a...

Volatile session sees Tesla jump 14 then sink to a loss

Investors went through a rollercoaster trading session on Monday, at one point the S&P 500 was up 1.5% versus Friday's closing price, before sinking...

Markets rally as lockdowns ease

Markets have bounced this morning as governments began to outline plans to ease lockdown measures. The announcements from Italy and Spain, amongst others, have...

Three Extinction Rebellion activists held after Thames rig protest

Three Extinction Rebellion activists were arrested and taken into custody after locking themselves to a rig in the middle of the Thames to protest...

‘We’ve crossed a threshold’: has industrial farming contributed to Ireland’s water crisis?

When Barry Curtin was a young boy, he would cycle alone along the River Bride in search of a soft mossy stone on which...