Delhi is witnessing a ‘very poor’ air quality these days. The dreaded pollution season has returned and it is going to stay for a while. This is the worst news for those fighting with COVID-19. As per a new global study published in the journal Cardiovascular Research, long-term exposure to air pollution may be a reason behind 15 per cent of COVID-19 deaths worldwide.Also Read - Fatality Rate Down to 1.5%, India's COVID-19 Tally Settles Over 79 Lakh-mark; 36,470 Cases in 24 Hrs
The study author Jos Lelieveld from Max Planck Institute in Germany says, “In the UK, there have been over 44,000 coronavirus deaths and we estimate that the fraction attributable to air pollution is 14 per cent, meaning that more than 6,100 deaths could be attributed to air pollution.” Also Read - Will Bring New Legislation to Tackle Air Pollution in Delhi-NCR, Centre Tells Supreme Court
How Air Pollution Increases Prevalence of COVID-19 Deaths?
Notably, fine particulates (pollutants) in the air may prolong the atmospheric lifetime of infectious viruses and help them to infect more people. So, it’s likely that particulate matter plays a role in ‘super-spreading events’ by favouring transmission. Also Read - Air Pollution in India Caused Over 1.16L Infant Deaths in 2019
According to the researchers, the particulate matter seems to increase the activity of a receptor on cell surfaces, called ACE-2, that is known to be involved in the way COVID-19 infects cells. So, we have a ‘double hit’: air pollution damages the lungs and increases the activity of ACE-2, which in turn leads to enhanced uptake of the virus by the lungs and probably by the blood vessels and the heart.
Another study conducted at Harvard University has revealed that even one microgram per cubic metre increase in PM 2.5 which are dangerous tiny pollutants in the air, can cause up to 8 per cent increase in deaths owing to COVID-19. And, you will be shocked to know that the average level of PM 2.5 in Delhi has gone to 180-300 micrograms per cubic metre. This is 12 times higher than the safe limits mentioned by the World Health Organisation. Such pollutants can lead to a constant inflammatory response in your body increasing your risk of contracting the deadly virus.
With Inputs From IANS