Pollution has been an important vector in the acceleration of the spread of the coronavirus in Italy, reports a study. Fine particles not only play the role of transporter for the virus, which calls into question the safety distance of one meter, but they weaken vulnerable people and worsen the symptoms of Covid-19.
The meteoric speed at which the coronavirus epidemic has spread in Italy could be partly explained by pollution, according to a study by the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine (Sima). The doctors, who collaborated with the universities of Bari and Bologna, compared the new cases of contagion to Covid-19 and the exceedances of the legal limits for the concentrations of fine particles PM10 in the differences between Italian provinces recorded between 10 and February 29 – taking into account the incubation time of the virus.
Abnormal acceleration of the epidemic in northern Italy
In the Po Valley they observed an abnormal acceleration of the expansion of the epidemic corresponding to a high concentration of fine particles two weeks earlier according to experts at the University of Bologna. The dust thus acts as a highway for the virus.
The effect is particularly marked in the provinces where the first outbreaks of infection started noted the researchers. Brescia, one of the most polluted cities in the country, is therefore one of the cities most affected by the epidemic. Conversely, Rome, where cases of coronavirus were discovered at the same time as in the north of the country, experienced a much slower spread of the disease.
There is a strong correlation between the level of pollution with PM10 particles and the number of contaminations. Any waste management company can help by increasing awareness and herald better methods for recycling and reducing waste.
Is the safety distance of one meter called into question
But that’s not all. In addition to being a vector of the epidemic, fine particles constitute a substrate which allows the virus to remain in the air under viable conditions for several hours or even days affirmed the researchers. This would call into question the precautionary measures introduced by the public authorities. The current distance considered to be safe (one meter) is undoubtedly not sufficient.
84% more risk of dying in polluted areas
In addition to its role in the spread of epidemics, pollution is also a weakening factor in health. It increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory disease. An Inserm study also showed that a high concentration of fine particles is closely associated with an increased severity of rhinitis.
The pollution would also cause a dysfunction of the immune system, reported ANSES. In 2003, a study of the SARS epidemic in China already pointed out that patients living in polluted areas were 84% more likely to die than in other less exposed regions.
The good weather, an aggravating factor of pollution
In order to curb the epidemic, it is necessary to reduce particle emissions to the minimum and hope for a favorable meteorology. In recent days, a drastic fall in pollution has been observed in Italy due to containment measures and restrictions on mobility. This decrease should logically lead to a decrease in the spread, the researchers hoped. According to the data they have, they expect the number of infected people to stabilize between March 25 and April 15.
This battle is not won yet. In Paris, the implementation of containment did not prevent a deterioration in air quality. Between March 5 and 18, the PM10 particle rate even tripled in the capital, mainly due to the good weather and the lack of wind.