Giving Compass' Take:

• Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at Stanford University, illuminates the connection between air pollution and vulnerability to COVID-19. 

• Are there opportunities for you to address air pollution and other environmental issues during this pandemic? 

• Read more about how philanthropists can address air pollution. 

At the same time, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed doing away with a longstanding practice of accounting for reductions in health-damaging pollutants beyond a regulation’s primary targets.

If approved, the new approach would only weigh the benefits of further reductions if they can be monetized or quantified.

A public comment period for the change goes until August 3rd. If approved, the rule could go into effect by early fall.

Here, Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at Stanford University’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, digs into evidence for air pollution’s connection with diseases like COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on poor communities:

What evidence exists that air pollution is connected to COVID-19?

Studies have found increased rates of COVID in areas of elevated air pollution. For example, a study out of Harvard found that someone living in an area of high particulate pollution is 15% more likely to die from COVID than someone living in an area with only slightly less air pollution. Similarly, studies have shown that the SARS outbreak of 2002-2004 and yearly spread of influenza are associated with pollution levels.

How can exposure to air pollution increase the dangers associated with diabetes, hypertension, coronary disease, and asthma?

While this is still an area of investigation, we know that all of these diseases have an inflammatory component and that air pollution causes immune dysregulation. The small particulate matter in air pollution is about one-thirtieth the width of a human hair. It’s small enough to enter the bloodstream after being inhaled and to travel to many organs. In diabetes, for example, it is thought that inflammation from small particulates increases insulin resistance. Eventually, this leads to overt diabetes. In fact, [researchers have estimated that in 2016] pollution-linked diabetes cut short people’s healthy lives by a total of 8.2 million years.

Read the full article about air pollution by Rob Jordan at Futurity.