COVID-19, an opportunity to reevaluate the correlation between long-term effects of anthropogenic pollutants on viral epidemic/pandemic events and prevalence

Food Chem Toxicol. 2020 Jul;141:111418. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2020.111418. Epub 2020 May 11.


Occupational, residential, dietary and environmental exposures to mixtures of synthetic anthropogenic chemicals after World War II have a strong relationship with the increase of chronic diseases, health cost and environmental pollution. The link between environment and immunity is particularly intriguing as it is known that chemicals and drugs can cause immunotoxicity (e.g., allergies and autoimmune diseases). In this review, we emphasize the relationship between long-term exposure to xenobiotic mixtures and immune deficiency inherent to chronic diseases and epidemics/pandemics. We also address the immunotoxicologic risk of vulnerable groups, taking into account biochemical and biophysical properties of SARS-CoV-2 and its immunopathological implications. We particularly underline the common mechanisms by which xenobiotics and SARS-CoV-2 act at the cellular and molecular level. We discuss how long-term exposure to thousand chemicals in mixtures, mostly fossil fuel derivatives, exposure toparticle matters, metals, ultraviolet (UV)-B radiation, ionizing radiation and lifestyle contribute to immunodeficiency observed in the contemporary pandemic, such as COVID-19, and thus threaten global public health, human prosperity and achievements, and global economy. Finally, we propose metrics which are needed to address the diverse health effects of anthropogenic COVID-19 crisis at present and those required to prevent similar future pandemics.

Keywords: COVID-19; Chronic diseases; Coronavirus; Epidemic; Immune deficiency; Pandemic; Pollutants; SARS-CoV-2; Xenobiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / physiopathology
  • Diet
  • Epidemics
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Pandemics
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / metabolism
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Time
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Pesticides
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Xenobiotics