Air pollution could be making the coronavirus more deadly
Sharon Lerner of the Intercept reports that long-term exposure to air pollution could make the coronavirus more deadly, especially for communities of low wealth.
In the U.S., she reports, an "underlying health disparity along with the failure to maintain the public health systems by paying for enough emergency equipment, planning, and primary care physicians, leave the poor at particular risk from the coronavirus."
The health problems that result from exposure to air pollution, in particular, could make it harder for people to fight off the virus when they are infected. "In the U.S., some 141 million Americans, more than 43 percent of the population, now live in a county that failed on at least one basic measure of air quality, according to a 2019 report from the American Lung Association."
That discrepancy impacts life expectancy — "the gap between the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and the poorest 1 percent is almost 15 years," Lerner reports — and now it is an immediate threat. Dr. Elena Craft, senior director for climate and health with the Environmental Defense Fund, tells Lerner, "The same people who are risk for the worst impact of the coronavirus are the ones who are already suffering the most because of air pollution. Places like Seattle, New York, and Houston — these major metropolitan areas are impacted by air pollution in a very serious way. Many of them don’t meet the guidelines for particulate matter and ozone. So it’s the double-whammy effect where they already have underlying chronic conditions that predispose them to adverse effects from the virus.”
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