Air pollution has contributed to 150 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland, new study suggests
The study estimates that approximately 15% of Covid-19 deaths worldwide could be attributed to the effects of air pollution.
Approximately 150 deaths related to Covid-19 in Ireland and 15% deaths related to the virus worldwide could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution.
A new study has estimated the proportion of deaths from Covid-19 that could be attributed to the exacerbating effects of air pollution for every country in the world.
In the Republic of Ireland, it is estimated that approximately 8% of deaths related to Covid-19 are attributable to the effects of air pollution, which would equate to 150 of the 1,885 deaths in the country to date.
In Czech Republic, the figure was 29%, in China it was 27%, in Germany it was 26% and in the UK it was 12%.
At the other end of the scale, the effects of exposure to air pollution is attributable to 3% of deaths related to Covid-19 in Australia and just 1% in New Zealand.
In Europe as a whole, the proportion of deaths attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution was estimated at approximately 19%, in North America it was 17% and in East Asia it was 27%.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research and the University Medical Centre of the Johannes Gutenberg University, all of which are located in Mainz.
The researchers used epidemiological data from previous US and Chinese studies of air pollution and Covid-19 and the SARS outbreak in 2003, supported by additional data from Italy, as well as satellite data showing global exposure to polluting fine particles known as ‘particulate matter’.
The results are based on epidemiological data collected up the third week of June 2020 and the researchers say a comprehensive evaluation will need to follow after the pandemic has subsided.
Commenting on the results of the study, Professor Jos Lelieveld said: “Since the numbers of deaths from Covid-19 are increasing all the time, it’s not possible to give exact or final numbers of Covid-19 deaths per country that can be attributed to air pollution.
“However, as an example, in the UK there have been over 44,000 coronavirus deaths and we estimate that the fraction attributable to air pollution is 14%, meaning that more than 6,100 deaths could be attributed to air pollution. In the USA, more than 220,000 Covid deaths with a fraction of 18% yields about 40,000 deaths attributable to air pollution.”
The authors of the study concluded: “Our results suggest the potential for substantial benefits from reducing air pollution exposure.
“A lesson from our environmental perspective of the Covid-19 pandemic is that the quest for effective policies to reduce anthropogenic emissions, which cause both air pollution and climate change, needs to be accelerated. The pandemic ends with the vaccination of the population or with herd immunity through extensive infection of the population.
“However, there are no vaccines against poor air quality and climate change. The remedy is to mitigate emissions. The transition to a green economy with clean, renewable energy sources will further both environmental and public health locally through improved air quality and globally by limiting climate change.”