First data analysis about possible COVID-19 virus airborne diffusion due to air particulate matter (PM): The case of Lombardy (Italy)

Environ Res. 2020 Jul;186:109639. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.109639. Epub 2020 May 7.

Abstract

The severe cases of COVID-19 infections in Italy, and notably in Lombardy (mainly in Brescia and Bergamo areas), registered at the beginning of March 2020, occurred after a period of PM10 pollution, that exceeded the concentration of 50 μg/m3 (the attention limit) for several days. The two events were supposed to be correlated, also based on the limited information available about the new virus. Despite that clear indications about the role of particulate matter (PM) in the virus mechanism dispersion cannot be found in literature, some researchers supposed that PM can act as virus carrier, promoting its diffusion through the air. This paper, for the first time, analyses the PM10 situation in Lombardy (from 10th February to March 27, 2020), several days before the sanitary emergency explosion. The data of the detected infection cases are reported and discussed parallelly. As a comparison, the situation of Piedmont, located near to the Lombardy is also presented. Data are reported for Brescia, Bergamo, Cremona, Lodi, Milano, Monza-Brianza, Pavia (Lombardy), Alessandria, Vercelli, Novara, Biella, Asti, and Torino (Piedmont). The results show that it is not possible to conclude that COVID-19 diffusion mechanism also occurs through the air, by using PM10 as a carrier. In particular, it is shown that Piedmont cities, presenting lower detected infections cases in comparison to Brescia and Bergamo in the investigated period, had most sever PM10 pollution events in comparison to Lombardy cities. This first study may serve as a reference to better understand and predict the factors affecting the COVID-19 diffusion and transmission routes, focusing on the role of air particulate matter in the atmosphere.

Keywords: Air pollution; COVID-19; Lombardy; PM(10).

MeSH terms

  • Air Microbiology*
  • Air Pollutants*
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Cities
  • Coronavirus Infections*
  • Data Analysis
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Pandemics*
  • Particulate Matter*
  • Pneumonia, Viral*
  • SARS-CoV-2

Substances

  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter