Communities of color and low wealth throughout the U.S. are disproportionately exposed to harmful air pollution, especially from industrial sources, leading to disparities in lung disease and other health issues that are now being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, reports Hiroko Tabuchi.
"Last month, work by Harvard specialists found that coronavirus patients in areas with historically heavy air pollution are more likely to die than patients elsewhere," reports Tabuchi. "Scientists are racing to understand if long-term exposure to air pollution plays a role, particularly since minorities are disproportionately dying."
In Houston, where industrial facilities are busy making plastics for personal protective equipment and also incinerating medical waste, "minority groups have accounted for about two-thirds of early COVID-19 deaths in the city, despite making up only 22 percent of the population," she reports.
Dr. Denae King with Texas Southern University tells Tabuchi that more research is needed to determine the precise connections between air pollution like fine particulate matter and increased vulnerability to respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. "If your lungs have already been exposed, you already have underlying issues related to inflammation, and then you’re diagnosed with COVID-19," she explains, "that just exacerbates the problems that already exist.”
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