Air pollution increases risk of severe COVID-19 infection, says WHO

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Lara Adejoro

The World Health Organisation says exposure to air pollution puts individuals at a greater possibility of developing a severe infection of COVID-19. 

WHO noted that the quality of the air we breathe will be a major risk factor for acute and chronic respiratory diseases and cardiovascular diseases. 

Speaking during an interview session tagged ‘Science in 5’, the Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, Dr. Maria Neira says there is a clear relationship between air pollution and the burden of COVID-19 in places that were very polluted.

Dr. Neira added that there is a need to lower the recommended levels of exposure to air pollutants in order to protect people’s health.

“So we know now that even exposure to very low levels of certain pollutants that we are breathing every day will put us at risk. And that’s why, for six key pollutants, we are recommending lower levels that will be protecting your health. 

“The important message of these guidelines is that if those recommendations of WHO are implemented, particularly for PM 2.5, which is one of the most dangerous for our health, we could save 80 per cent of the total number of deaths that we have every year due to air pollution, and that number is seven million premature deaths caused by exposure to air pollution,” she said.

Adding, she said the bad quality of the air we breathe will be a major risk factor for acute and chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. 

“In addition to that, if you are exposed to air pollution, you will develop certain diseases, underlying diseases that will give you a greater possibility of developing severe cases of COVID, if you are affected. So we see a clear relationship between air pollution and the burden of COVID-19 in places that were very polluted,” she said.

According to the expert, there is a need to reimagine a greener world with clean sources of energy, a place where we can breathe air that is not killing us. 

“Just to remind all of the people that are listening to us at the moment, 90 per cent of the world population, nine zero per cent of the world population, is breathing air that is not respecting the recommended standards by the World Health Organisation, the ones that will be protecting our health.

“Most of the decisions about the reduction of air pollution, need to come from governments or from mayors, from politicians. But as an individual, I can put pressure on my politicians for them to reduce those levels of air pollution and therefore protecting my life,” she said.

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