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Covid, research: smog increases symptoms and risks of serious illness

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Pollution increases the risk of developing even serious symptoms in the case of Covid, hospitalization and intensive care: smog, therefore, does not favor infection, but puts you at risk of a more serious disease when the infection occurs. This is what emerges from a study conducted at the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) and published in the journal Environment Health Perspectives.

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In the past, several studies had already shown a link between air pollution and Covid, but so far no one had been able to assess how smog favors the disease, whether by increasing infections or increasing symptoms and the severity of them. Experts considered 9,605 people including 481 confirmed cases of Covid (5%). For 4,000 of the participants, the experts performed blood tests in search of specific antibodies against the virus.

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Tommaso Carboni

It was found that higher exposure to nitric oxide and fine particles (PM2.5 fine particles) corresponded to higher concentrations of antibodies (an indicator of high viral load and stronger symptoms of infection). In all cases, an association was found between high levels of pollutants and disease (presence of symptoms), particularly for the most severe cases that end up in hospital and intensive care. The association with fine particulate matter and disease was particularly strong for males over 60 and for those living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas.

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“Our study provides the strongest evidence globally for the association between air pollution and COVID-19,” explained lead author Manolis Kogevinas. “These results are in line with the association between air pollution and hospitalization described for other infectious diseases such as influenza or pneumonia.” Smog, the scientist concluded, can also help promote the development of chronic cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, which in turn increase the risk of severe COVID-19.


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