You are here

Resources On Air Pollution and Coronavirus

I'm collecting information and references regarding air pollution and coronavirus and policies to diminish air pollution and the impact and spread of the virus.
I'm trying to continuously improve the content and if you have any suggestions, critics or else, let me know.

3 Ways Air Pollution Aggravates The Impact Of Coronavirus

Coronavirus is a new virus, there is not much established research. It infect the respiratory tracts and sperad with proximity to contagious people or by touching infected objects and subsequently bringing the hands in contacts with the entrences of the respiratory tract. There increasing evidences that Air pollution influences the transmission and the negative health consequences of the virus.
Air pollution help make the virus more dangerous in three ways:

  1. Air pollutions components compromise health and make people more vulnerable.
  2. Volatile particles that becomes a vehicle for the virus and help the virus move to other people.
  3. Air pollution limiting the UV radiation and reducing the naturally disinfection effects.

Health Degradation Ccaused By Air Pollution

There a lot of evidence that the polluted air cause health diseases and in pneumonia. Coronavirus and air pollution have both negative effects on the respiratory tract. In particular, negative effects of pollution on people’s health might have created the condition for a deteriorated health situation and therefore helped the spread of Covid-19.

Pollution Particles Vehicles For The Virus

The coronavirus propagates through air and surfaces. It is persistent on surfaces. Air pollution particles become a support for the virus, so that it cause an higher infection rate. There statistics evidence that this could be a factor, but it is not yet specific evidence on how they exactly play a role, so it is possible that:

  • The infected pollution particles get directly in the respiratory tract or individuals.
  • The infected particles deposit on surfaces, like cars or that are touched frequently by individuals.
  • Thanks to the polluted particles the virus can go beyond the security distance of two meters.

Both elements could play a role in making easier for a virus to spread more effectively.


  • Pm10 pollution may facilitate the spread of the virus (In Italian language).
    This a very important new evidence coming from Lombardia, the Italian region with the most negative effects of coronavirus in all the world.
    According to the research, the Pm10 would have boosted the virulent spread of the epidemic. Leonardo Setti points this out: "The high concentrations of dust recorded in February in the Po Valley produced an acceleration in the spread of Covid19. The effect is more evident in those provinces where there were the first outbreaks".
  • Human Coronavirus 229E Remains Infectious on Common Touch Surface Materials.
    This research from 2015 confirm that coronavirus can stay active for many days in the surface.
  • Aerosol and surface stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV.2) compared to SARS-CoV-1.
    We found that viable virus 35 could be detected in aerosols up to 3 hours post aerosolization, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel. HCoV-19 and SARS-CoV-1 exhibited similar half-lives in aerosols, with median estimates around 2.7 hours. Both viruses show relatively long viability on stainless steel and polypropylene compared to copper or cardboard: the median half-life estimate for HCoV-19 is around 13 hours on steel and around 16 hours on polypropylene. Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 is plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for multiple hours and on surfaces up to days. HCoV-19 was most stable on plastic and stainless steel and viable virus could be detected up to 72 hours post application.
    See also The Washington Post article on this subject.

Compromised Disinfection From Natural UV Radiation

High temperature and UV light are generally used to kill bacteria, viruses and other single cell organisms. The mitigating effects of temperature and UV on flue and coronavirus have been already demonstrated. By analogy, we could assume that temperature and UV radiation can mitigate the spread of the Covid-19, Temperature and UV-Radiation levels depends on factors like latitude, season, weather, air pollution.

First Action: Contains Air Pollution

Social distancing is the most effective measure to contains the spread of the virus. A typical measure to contains air pollution that is to use more the public transport SHOULD NOT not be implemented.
For many countries with limited budgets, limiting air pollution could be an effect and cost-free way to limit the spread of the virus.
Measures should focus on limiting the emissions of elements that locally contributes to the emissions.
Some possible measure are:

  • Reduce the emission due to traffic:
    • Limit the use of cars only for essential transports.
    • Allows only cars and trucks with less emissions.
    • Reduce the speed limits.
    • Require cars owners to adopt a environmental friendly style of guide and shut down the engine when the car stop.
  • Reduce other emissions.
    • Limit the temperature in the houses, to prevent excessive burn of gasoline.
    • Shut down electricity generators with higher emissions.

See also

Clean Hands, Surfaces and Use Masks

Virus get transported through the air and when it reach surfaces it stick on it.

  • Washing and sanitizing hands prevents to propagate the virus further and assure that when hands touch the face they do not get into the respiratory apparatus.
  • Plastic and metal can be easily cleaned with water. The virus will in most cases easily go away.
  • Use masks to prevent to spread the virus.
    We don't know if we are infected, so when getting in public places, use a mask. It will also help filter the virus. Where there is a shortage of masks, you can reuse it. A used mask is still better than nothing.
  • Use plastic gloves when the risk of contamination is high. Glovers also allow to wash away the virus more easily. Use it if you do a job that require a lot of interactions, you need to wash hands many time and you don't alway have the necessary time.

Further Studies

The Australian Governments is collecting a lot of information on the coronavirus cases. The data on the evolution of the virus in a region of the southern hemisphere, with a lot of sun, could help understand better the impact of temperature and sun UV light on the spread of the coronavirus. If we see that the virus does not spread like in Australia, we could assume that higher temperatures and higher UV radiation are important factors that prevent the spread of the virus. This information could help create models and help estimate the evolution of the virus in the northern hemisphere and other part of the planet. Some equatorial regions in Africa in this period have a lot of rain and cloud, so temperature and UV-radiation are lower than in other places. Being able to better predict the spread of the virus on the next months could really become a live saver. UV-radiation is a natural defense against the virus, so in order to contains the virus we should also contain air pollution.

In the future: focus on preventing air pollution limits to be surpassed

Currently many authorities give priorities to economic goals and allows air pollution limits to be regularly surpassed. The coronavirus pandemic should bring more attention to the importance of containing air pollution. But this is not necessarily the case, The lower air pollution due the lockdown of economic activities has driven end of March 2020, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspends environmental law enforcement, citing coronavirus, a sort of "open licence to pollute".

Unfortunately most legislations focus on not having to many days with higher level of air pollution. A a change is needed in legislation:

  • Air pollution forecasting system that allows to understand how the air quality will evolve in the following days.
  • Takes preventive measures in order that limits are not reached.

In order to contains the effects of coronavirus it is important to take all the measures that could prevent emissions. By limiting the economic activities air pollution is reduced, but this should not be an excuse for not taking measure. Measures to limit air pollution should be the first authorities takes. Anti air pollution measure should be the firsts measure a countries fearing the coronavirus should take.

Why I'm interested in air pollution

I'm not a scientific specialist on this topics. I've always suffered from bronchitis even in the summer. More than 20 years ago, in July, I was really sick and I had been in bed for a few days. But I had an important conference. Despite my condition I went to the mountain resort all day long. With my surprise in the evening I was very well. This allowed me to understand that the bronchitis was linked to the bad air quality. Since then I have always monitored the pollution levels and paid attention to information regarding this issue.