As we sat and watched in horror around the world communities being ravaged by COVID-19, it became hard to understand why attention wasn’t being paid to the air people are breathing. We already know from data collected by the WHO the air pollution alone is responsible for around seven million deaths per year (1). It’s not a big leap to suggest that air pollution could be contributing to deaths in covid-19, a largely respiratory illness. The WHO themselves have suggested there is a clear link between air pollution and covid-19, and yet we hear nothing of this in mainstream media (2). The rhetoric continued to be around distancing, masking and vaccinations.
A simple google search will provide ample research on the connection between the pandemic and air quality. The international journal of environmental research and public health published a study explaining the significant associations between the virus and air pollution particles called carbon particulate matter. They explained how carbon particulate matter is roughly the same size as the virus (100nm) and that increases in PM 10 (a certain size of carbon particle) caused a “boost effect for the viral infectivity”(3). Another study published in the European society of Cardiology found that air pollution increases death from COVID-19 by 15% worldwide (4). This is an average worldwide number, however the average number for deaths attributed to air pollution in east asia was 27% (5).
Common sense would dictate that if something is potentially causing almost 30% of the deaths in a certain region, it would be made public knowledge. Anyone who’s been to south-east asia knows, the air is thick with pollution and the blistering heat can make the smog unbearable. Something I learned recently was smog is caused by the heating of pollution which triggers a chemical reaction between nitrogen and oxygen, creating nitrogen dioxides (give it that nasty brown color). The surrogate to measure this is ozone. We know when ozone levels rise there is an environment damaging to our lungs and aggravates symptoms in people with lung conditions. The other component of smog is of course carbon particulate matter. Well wouldn’t you know that along with carbon particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide has been studied to increase the lethality of COVID-19 (6).
The writing was all over the walls. The irony is that if this was made public knowledge, there are easy things people can do within their homes to keep safe. Of course, this kind of knowledge would shine a spotlight on the petrochemical and agricultural industries that are largely responsible for this mess, but that’s a story for another day. Air filtration is a relatively inexpensive and effective way to deal with this issue. Especially with the shift of people working from home, keeping a unit in your home work-place and bedroom can be the x-factor for your health.
As many of the great environmental clinical medicine practitioners before us, we recommend a unit with HEPA and Carbon filtration. To understand it simply, the HEPA filter removes larger particles like pollen, dust and mold. Carbon filters remove finer particles like smoke and gaseous particles. If you have to choose one for economical reasons, in the setting of the pandemic, go with carbon filtration. Again, it’s best to have these units running wherever you spend your most time. It’s always a good idea to know the air quality in your area, https://www.iqair.com is a great resource. Maybe if you visually see the global map in terms of air quality this whole thing will make more sense to you.
Lastly, purifying your air isn’t just a fashionable thing to do during the pandemic. Believe it or not air quality has also been linked to death from heart disease and stroke! A prestigious medical journal called the Lancet released a study in 2016 describing that air pollution was responsible for 24% of deaths from ischemic heart disease and 21% of deaths from stroke (7). Theses are two of the top five killers in our world today. Cleaning your air is a no-brainer, do it before you become a “no-brainer”.