Positive association between outdoor air pollution and the incidence and severity of COVID-19. A review of the recent scientific evidences

Environ Res. 2021 Aug 20;203:111930. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.111930. Online ahead of print.


In June 2020, we published a review focused on assessing the influence of various air pollutants on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and the severity of COVID-19 in patients infected by the coronavirus. The results of most of those reviewed studies suggested that chronic exposure to certain air pollutants might lead to more severe and lethal forms of COVID-19, as well as delays/complications in the recovery of the patients. Since then, a notable number of studies on this topic have been published, including also various reviews. Given the importance of this issue, we have updated the information published since our previous review. Taking together the previous results and those of most investigations now reviewed, we have concluded that there is a significant association between chronic exposure to various outdoor air pollutants: PM2.5, PM10, O3, NO2, SO2 and CO, and the incidence/risk of COVID-19 cases, as well as the severity/mortality of the disease. Unfortunately, studies on the potential influence of other important air pollutants such as VOCs, dioxins and furans, or metals, are not available in the scientific literature. In relation to the influence of outdoor air pollutants on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, although the scientific evidence is much more limited, some studies point to PM2.5 and PM10 as potential airborne transmitters of the virus. Anyhow, it is clear that environmental air pollution plays an important negative role in COVID-19, increasing its incidence and mortality.

Keywords: Air pollution; COVID-19; Incidence; Mortality; PM; SARS-CoV-2.