Growing evidence links air pollution exposure and covid-19 risks

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Research has shown that being unvaccinated raises a person’s risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus, while being older, overweight or immunocompromised can increase the severity of covid-19. Now scientists think there is another risk factor that may increase the likelihood of contracting the coronavirus and the possibility that it will lead to a poor outcome: exposure to air pollution.

growing body of evidence suggests links between breathing polluted air and the chances of being infected by the coronavirus, developing a severe illness or dying of covid-19. Although many of these studies focused on long-term exposure to air pollution, experts say there is also building evidence that even short-term exposures may have negative effects.

recent study of 425 younger adults in Sweden found that brief exposures were “associated with increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection despite relatively low levels of air pollution exposure,” according to the paper published in April. Unlike many other studies that analyzed vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or young children, and tracked the effects of long-term exposures on hospitalizations and deaths, the median age of participants, who largely reported mild to moderate symptoms, was about 25 years old.

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