Exposure to air pollution increases risk of hospitalization from COVID-19: study

By Daniel Otis, writer of CTVNews.ca

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Toronto, Ontario (CTV Network) — Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19, according to a new study.

Published this month in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the peer-reviewed study found that exposure to common air pollutants increased the risk of hospitalization by up to 30 percent for fully vaccinated patients.

“In vaccinated people, the harmful effect of exposure to air pollution is slightly smaller compared to people who have not been vaccinated,” said study co-author Zhanghua Chen, an assistant professor of population and public health sciences at the University of Southern California. press release. “But that difference is not statistically significant.”

The study analyzed data from more than 50,000 COVID-19 patients in Southern California. Estimated exposure to air pollution was calculated for each residential address using publicly available data on particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) levels in the month and year prior to each patient’s diagnosis.

“We examined both long-term and short-term exposure to air pollution, which can influence the severity of COVID-19 through different mechanisms,” Chen said.

Long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular and lung disease, both of which can lead to more severe COVID-19 symptoms, the researchers noted, while short-term exposure to air pollution can amplify pneumonia, even influencing patients’ immune responses. Since COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, it was no surprise that air quality affected patient outcomes.

For the unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter increased the risk of hospitalization by 13 to 14 percent, while long-term exposure increased the risk by 22 to 24 percent. For the partially and fully vaccinated, the risks were slightly lower, but not statistically significant, according to the study. Ozone levels did not affect the number of hospital admissions.

The study was also able to further establish that vaccination against COVID-19 leads to fewer hospital admissions.

“Fully vaccinated people had almost a 90 percent lower risk of hospitalization from COVID, and even partially vaccinated people had about 50 percent less risk,” Chen said.

“These findings are important because they show that while COVID-19 vaccines are successful in reducing the risk of hospitalization, people who have been vaccinated and exposed to polluted air are still at increased risk of worse outcomes than vaccinated people. that have not been exposed to air pollution,” co-author Anny Xiang, senior researcher at Kaiser Permanente, a US healthcare consortium, added in the press release.

Because the findings suggest that improving air quality could reduce severe cases of COVID-19, the researchers are now studying the effects of indoor air purifiers on patients.

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