Link between Air Quality and Covid-19 | 26 Jun 2021

Why in News

For the first time, a pan-India study has found a direct correlation between air pollution and Covid-19.

  • The study found that areas with poor air quality and higher emissions of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 are more likely to have Covid-19 infections and related deaths.

Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5

  • It is an atmospheric particulate matter of diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometres, which is around 3% the diameter of a human hair.
    • It is very small and can only be detected with the help of an electron microscope.
  • It causes respiratory problems and also reduces visibility. It is an endocrine disruptor that can affect insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity, thus contributing to diabetes.
  • These particles are formed as a result of burning fuel and chemical reactions that take place in the atmosphere. Natural processes such as forest fires also contribute to PM2.5 in the air.
  • These particles are also the primary reason for the occurrence of smog.

Key Points

  • About:
  • Components:
    • The study involves three kinds of data sets—
      • National Emission Inventory (NEI) of PM2.5 for 2019, developed by the scientists;
      • Number of Covid-19 positive cases and corresponding death as of 5th November, 2020.
      • Air quality index data (in-situ observations).
  • Important Observations:
    • The study titled ‘Establishing a link between fine particulate matter (PM2.5) zones and Covid-19 over India based on anthropogenic emission sources and air quality data’ dealt with how people living in highly polluted areas are more vulnerable to coronavirus infections.
    • The regions using huge amounts of fossil fuels such as petrol, diesel and coal by combustion in transport and industrial activities also experience a far higher number of Covid-19 cases.
      • For Example, the highest numbers of Covid-19 cases are found in States like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Gujarat, where exposure to the prolonged high concentration of PM2.5 is relatively high, especially in the cities, due to overuse of fossil fuel.
      • Mumbai and Pune are among hotspots where high air pollution from the transport and industrial sectors is related to a higher number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.
    • There is also evidence that the novel coronavirus sticks to fine particles like PM2.5 allowing them to move from one part to another by making the airborne transmission of Covid-19 more effective.
  • Impact:
    • When human-induced emissions are added combined with the double impact of the Covid-19 virus, the damage to lungs will be much faster and worsen health conditions.
    • The study results will help slow down the spread of the virus by providing more preventive steps and resources in areas with high pollution levels for present situations as well as for future possibilities.
  • Solution:
  • Other Initiatives to Reduce Air Pollution:

Air Quality Index (AQI)

  • The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality.
  • It focuses on health effects one might experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.
  • AQI is calculated for eight major air pollutants:
    • Ground-level ozone,
    • PM10,
    • PM2.5,
    • Carbon monoxide,
    • Sulfur dioxide,
    • Nitrogen dioxide,
    • Ammonia,
    • Lead,
  • Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health in India.

Source: TH