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Resources On Air Pollution and Coronavirus

Collection of information and references regarding air pollution and coronavirus and policies to diminish air pollution and the impact and spread of the virus.
I'm trying to continuously improve the content. I do welcome feedback, suggestions and links.

3 Ways Air Pollution Aggravates The Impact Of Coronavirus

Coronavirus is a new virus, there is not much established research. It infect the respiratory tracts and sperad with proximity to contagious people or by touching infected objects and subsequently bringing the hands in contacts with the entrences of the respiratory tract. There increasing evidences that Air pollution influences the transmission and the negative health consequences of the virus.
Air pollution help make the virus more dangerous in three ways:

  1. Air pollutions components compromise health and make people more vulnerable.
  2. Volatile particles that becomes a vehicle for the virus and help the virus move to other people.
  3. Air pollution limiting the UV radiation and reducing the naturally disinfection effects.

1. Health Degradation Caused By Air Pollution

There a lot of evidence that the polluted air cause health diseases and in pneumonia. Coronavirus and air pollution have both negative effects on the respiratory tract. In particular, negative effects of pollution on people’s health might have created the condition for a deteriorated health situation and therefore helped the spread of Covid-19.

2. Pollution Particles Vehicles For The Virus

The coronavirus propagates through air and surfaces. It is persistent on surfaces. Air pollution particles become a support for the virus, so that it cause an higher infection rate. There statistics evidence that this could be a factor, but it is not yet specific evidence on how they exactly play a role, so it is possible that:

  • The infected pollution particles get directly in the respiratory tract or individuals.
  • The infected particles deposit on surfaces, like cars or that are touched frequently by individuals.
  • Thanks to the polluted particles the virus can go beyond the security distance of two meters.

Both elements could play a role in making easier for a virus to spread more effectively.


3. Compromised Virus Inactivation From Sun Radiation

High temperature and UV light are generally used to inactivate bacteria, viruses and other single cell organisms. The mitigating effects of temperature and UV on flue and coronavirus have been already demonstrated. By analogy, we could assume that temperature and UV radiation can mitigate the spread of the Covid-19, Temperature and UV-Radiation levels depends on factors like latitude, season, weather, air pollution.

  • 2020 COVID-19 Coronavirus Ultraviolet Susceptibility (2020).
    "Confirmation That Ultraviolet is Effective: Ultraviolet light can be an effective measure for decontaminating surfaces that may be contaminated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus by inducing photodimers in the genomes of microorganisms. Ultraviolet light has been demonstrated to be capable of destroying viruses, bacteria and fungi in hundreds of laboratory studies (Kowalski 2009). The SARS-CoV-2 virus has not yet been specifically tested for its ultraviolet susceptibility but many other tests on related coronaviruses, including the SARS coronavirus, have concluded that they are highly susceptible to ultraviolet inactivation. This report reviews these studies and provides an estimate of the ultraviolet susceptibility."
  • Primary biological aerosols in the atmosphere: a review (2012).
    "..viruses have no repair systems, and therefore, their inactivation rates are usually higher than those of living microorganisms", "Experimental data on the survival of viruses show that, on the whole, the inactivation rate becomes higher for all viruses with increasing temperature. Also, the number of surviving viral particles in aerosol decreases with increased radiation dose that the virus aerosol is exposed to".
  • Survival of aerosolized coronavirus in the ambient air (2018).
    "Fortunately, virus decay was much stronger for hot and dry air scenario with only 4.7% survival over 60 min procedure"
  • The Influence of Simulated Sunlight on the Inactivation of Influenza Virus in Aerosols (2020).
    "Measured decay rates were dependent on the level of simulated sunlight, but they were not significantly different between the 2 relative humidity levels tested. In darkness, the average decay constant was 0.02 ± 0.06 min−1, equivalent to a half-life of 31.6 minutes. However, at full intensity simulated sunlight, the mean decay constant was 0.29 ± 0.09 min−1, equivalent to a half-life of approximately 2.4 minutes.".
    Conclusions:These results are consistent with epidemiological findings that sunlight levels are inversely correlated with influenza transmission, and they can be used to better understand the potential for the virus to spread under varied environmental conditions."
  • Canine coronavirus inactivation with physical and chemical agents; Annamaria Pratelli; 2008.
  • Evaluation of the Ultra-V™ (ultraviolet) decontamination system as an adjunct to cleaning in a district general hospital; A.Johnson, L. Weston, L.Grisewood, M.Kyffin;2016

Spread of the virus and other information

Social distancing is the most effective measure to contains the spread of the virus.

Further Studies

The Australian Governments is collecting a lot of information on the coronavirus cases. The data on the evolution of the virus in a region of the southern hemisphere, with a lot of sun, could help understand better the impact of temperature and sun UV light on the spread of the coronavirus. If we see that the virus does not spread like in Australia, we could assume that higher temperatures and higher UV radiation are important factors that prevent the spread of the virus.

As at the beginning of April 2020 the data from Australia attest

This information could help create models and help estimate the evolution of the virus in the northern hemisphere and other part of the planet. Some equatorial regions in Africa in this period have a lot of rain and cloud, so temperature and UV-radiation are lower than in other places. Being able to better predict the spread of the virus on the next months could really become a live saver. UV-radiation is a natural defense against the virus, so in order to contains the virus we should also contain air pollution.

  • As at 3:00pm on 3 April 2020, there have been 5,350 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia. There have been 217 new cases since 3:00pm yesterday.
    To date, the majority of confirmed cases in all states were acquired overseas.

Clean Hands, Surfaces and Use Masks

Social distancing is the most effective measure to contains the spread of the virus.
Virus get transported through the air and when it reaches surfaces it sticks on it.

  • Washing and sanitizing hands prevents to propagate the virus further and assure that when hands touch the face they do not get into the respiratory apparatus.
  • Plastic and metal can be easily cleaned with water. The virus will in most cases easily go away.
  • Use masks to prevent to spread the virus.
    We don't know if we are infected, so when getting in public places, use a mask. It will also help filter the virus. Where there is a shortage of masks, you can reuse it. A used mask is still better than nothing.
  • Use plastic gloves when the risk of contamination is high. Glovers also allow to wash away the virus more easily. Use it if you do a job that require a lot of interactions, you need to wash hands many time and you don't alway have the necessary time.

For people living in hot countries with limited access to water and sanitation products, it may be help to leave in the sun everyday objects that are shared among people. This should not be counted as a hygiene policy, but it may reduce the risk of contamination.

Contains Air Pollution

Social distancing is the most effective measure to contains the spread of the virus. A typical measure to contains air pollution that is to use more the public transport SHOULD NOT not be implemented.
For many countries with limited budgets, limiting air pollution could be an effect and cost-free way to limit the spread of the virus.
Measures should focus on limiting the emissions of elements that locally contributes to the emissions.
Some possible measure are:

  • Reduce the emission due to traffic:
    • Limit the use of cars only for essential transports.
    • Allows only cars and trucks with less emissions.
    • Reduce the speed limits.
    • Require cars owners to adopt a environmental friendly style of guide and shut down the engine when the car stop.
  • Reduce other emissions.
    • Limit the temperature in the houses, to prevent excessive burn of gasoline.
    • Shut down electricity generators with higher emissions.

See also

In the future: focus on preventing air pollution limits to be surpassed

Currently many authorities give priorities to economic goals and allows air pollution limits to be regularly surpassed. The coronavirus pandemic should bring more attention to the importance of containing air pollution. But this is not necessarily the case, The lower air pollution due the lockdown of economic activities has driven end of March 2020, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspends environmental law enforcement, citing coronavirus, a sort of "open licence to pollute".

Unfortunately most legislations focus on not having to many days with higher level of air pollution. A a change is needed in legislation:

  • Air pollution forecasting system that allows to understand how the air quality will evolve in the following days.
  • Takes preventive measures in order that limits are not reached.

In order to contains the effects of coronavirus it is important to take all the measures that could prevent emissions. By limiting the economic activities air pollution is reduced, but this should not be an excuse for not taking measure. Measures to limit air pollution should be the first authorities takes. Anti air pollution measure should be the firsts measure a countries fearing the coronavirus should take.

Why I'm interested in air pollution

I'm not a scientific specialist on this topics. I've always suffered from bronchitis even in the summer. More than 20 years ago, in July, I was really sick and I had been in bed for a few days. But I had an important conference. Despite my condition I went to the mountain resort all day long. With my surprise in the evening I was very well. This allowed me to understand that the bronchitis was linked to the bad air quality. Since then I have always monitored the pollution levels and paid attention to information regarding this issue.