Has it ever crossed your mind that air pollution could increase COVID19 fatality?
Or that improved indoor air quality could in a way keep you safe?
According to a group of German researchers at Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg, the presence of contaminants especially Nitrogen dioxide(NO2) in the atmosphere could speed up COVID19 fatality in an area.
Relationship between air pollution and Coronavirus
According to these German researchers, the spatial analysis was conducted on a regional scale and combined with the number of death cases taken from 66 administrative regions in Italy, Spain, France and Germany.
The results showed that 78% of fatality cases were in five regions located in north Italy and central Spain. Additionally, the same five regions showed the highest NO2 concentrations combined with downwards airflow which prevents an efficient dispersion of air pollution.
These results indicate that the long-term exposure to this pollutant may be one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the COVID-19 virus in these regions and maybe across the whole world.
COVID-19 is an acute respiratory disease that may lead to pneumonia with symptoms such as fever, cough and dyspnea. As of April 28, 2020, there have been 2 954 222 confirmed cases and 202 597 deaths reported globally.
Early studies concluded that the risk factors associated with the development of the disease are older age, history of smoking, hypertension and heart disease. Recent studies also suggest that the cause of death of many COVID-19 patients was related to cytokine storm syndrome.
Cytokine atom syndrome, is also known as hypercytokinemia. It is an uncontrolled release of proinflammatory cytokines and it is a severe reaction of the immune system.
This is simply a research work. Further studies on other locations will either affirm or assert this work. The result might change if the analysis is carried out in areas with low concentration of air contaminants.
Some other factors could have also contributed to the result of this study. For instance, heavy pollution and quick spread of epidemics are problems associated with high population density.
This means that the high mortality rate recorded in those five regions could have also been due to high population density. Or quite simply because this is where epidemic foci most easily developed because the population densities were high there.
However, it is a known fact that air pollution creates chronic inflammatory reactions in the respiratory and pulmonary systems.
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality in your Home
Having seen possible relationship between the relationship between COCID19 mortality rate and air pollution, one should consider improved air quality as an advantage. Below are tips on how one can improve indoor air quality in the home.
- Indoor Hygiene: Good hygiene practices such as regular and thorough cleaning of the rooms, windows, air ducts, curtains, cushions and beddings; vacuuming the carpets and rugs using a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter will improve indoor air quality. For those who own pets and wouldn’t want to let go of them, ensure you clean them up always. Pet dander (ie; dead skin cells shed by an animal) contributes to indoor air pollution. Properly brush your pet’s coat regularly before you vacuum carpets and other furnishings.
- Ventilation: For people living in cities characterized by heavy traffic and industrial activities, one might think it is better to keep the windows and doors closed at all times. Well, it might surprise you to know that this is not always the case. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air. Hence regular exchange of air is necessary. Open windows and doors (preferably early in the morning and late in the evening) every day. This makes room for the outflow of polluted air and inflow of cleaner fresh air.
- Choose Eco-friendly Materials: Your choice of materials ranging from cleaning agents to furniture can influence the quality of air in your home. They may contain asbestos and volatile organic compounds. In replacement of these, natural cleaning agents such as lemon and vinegar that emit zero pollutants can be used. Better choices should be made in the future purchase of furniture.
- Good Housekeeping Practices: Appliances such as heaters, ovens, boilers, generators should be regularly serviced. Cooking appliances such as gas cookers and stoves should be cleaned. Regular maintenance of these will ensure proper functioning of the devices and reduce their contribution to indoor air pollution.
- Indoor Humidity Monitoring: A damp dwelling is an ideal environment for the growth of molds and accumulation of other contaminants that can trigger respiratory problems. Indoor humidity should be measured as often as possible. If the humidity in your home is less than 40% or greater than 60%, you should consider frequent ventilating. Dehumidifiers can also be used in the home.
- Use Cooking Vents: Gas cookers and kerosene stoves release contaminants such as Carbon dioxide CO2 and Nitrogen dioxide NO2 in lower levels as well as other particles that can be readily absorbed into the bloodstream. Open kitchen windows to filter out air.
- Indoor Plants: Plants are natural air filters. They also release oxygen into the atmosphere. Aside from these features, they provide aesthetic beauty to our homes. Plants like Ferms, Lilies, Bamboo palm, English Ivy, Gerbera Daisy, Mass cane or corn plant, Snake plants, Golden pothos, English ivy, Chinese evergreen and rubber plants can be planted to Improve air quality. However, indoor houseplants should not be over-watered because overly damp soil may promote the growth of microorganisms, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
- Use Air Purifiers: Use air purifiers in parts of the house you frequent. Such as sitting rooms, bedrooms, loo and kitchen. Air purifiers remove stale and contaminated air from the environment thus, improving indoor air quality.
- Regularly Clean Air Filters: Regularly clean air filters in air conditioners according to the manufacturer’s instructions. check the filters in your other household appliances. Your vacuum cleaner, clothes dryer and kitchen vents should all be inspected and maintained periodically. It’s recommended to clean or replace these common household filters every few months.
Sunil Trivedi is the Managing Director of Aqua Drink. With 15 years of experience in the water purification industry, Sunil and his team have been ensuring that his clients consume 100% potable water to lead a healthy life and keeping water-borne diseases miles away.
Reviewed, edited and published on EnvironmentGo!
By: Favor Ifeoma Chidiebere.
Favor is an undergraduate Environmental Management student at the Federal University of Technology Owerri in Nigeria. She is also currently working remotely as the Chief Operating Officer of Greenera Technologies; a renewable energy enterprise in Nigeria.