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PHI Study Reveals Connection Between Air Pollution and Risk of COVID Illness and Death
“Thousands of COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented statewide if California had better air quality, a new study finds. That’s especially true in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the state’s two most polluted regions.
An estimated 9% of COVID-19-related deaths statewide — or about 4,250 deaths — could have been avoided between February 2020 and February 2021 if California’s levels of fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5, registered within national air quality standards, according to researchers from the Public Health Institute and UC San Francisco.
The researchers studied neighborhood-level air pollution data, examining over 3 million COVID-19 infections and about 50,000 COVID-19 deaths in the early months of the pandemic. They found that people living in neighborhoods exposed to the highest levels of air pollution had a 20% higher risk of COVID-19 infections, a 51% higher risk of COVID-19 mortality and were likely to be Latino and from low-income communities. The South Coast and San Joaquin Valley air basins have the highest PM 2.5 concentrations in the state.
The tiny droplets and particles that make up PM 2.5 are so small that they can penetrate deep into the lungs. The particles make people more vulnerable to respiratory diseases and with a virus like COVID-19, the combination can be fatal.
Dr. Paul English, lead author of the study and director of PHI’s Tracking California program.
The findings could provide another explanation for why Latinos in Fresno County and statewide have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, English said.
Referring to the Latino community, he said: “So, this was interesting that they’re also at risk for even worse COVID-19 outcomes if they’re exposed to air pollution.”
Watch news coverage from ABC-30 or view the full story below.
- Air pollution made COVID-19 deadlier for Valley residents, finds new study / ABC 30
Study shows bad air quality in Kern County contributed to COVID cases and COVID deaths / KBAK-KBFX Eyewitness News (Bakersfield)
- COVID deaths linked to poor air quality / KQED – The California Report
- Air pollution & COVID in the Valley / Radio Bilingue
- Study links air pollution and COVID-19 deaths in California / The Sacramento Bee
- Study shows how poor air quality worsened COVID in Kern / The Bakersfield Californian
- California’s high COVID rates connected to poor air quality / San Francisco Examiner
- Polluted air made COVID-19 deadlier in California: Hispanics hardest hit / Univision-21
- The connection between air pollution & COVID in the Central Valley / Comunidad Alerta Show – Radio Bilingue
- Air pollution can raise risk of COVID-19 death 51%, study says / The New Lede
- Air pollution can raise risk of COVID-19 death 51%, study says / Environmental Health News