Since March 2020, COVID-19 has rapidly spread across the world with over 240 million cases and over 5 million deaths as of November 2021. It has been unclear what role air pollutants may play in exacerbating respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 due to their interaction with the respiratory system. The association with air pollutants and COVID-19 severity has been explored at the regional and metropolitan area, however it is unclear if such an association is consistent at the neighborhood level.
Weekly death rates from COVID-19 from March 2020 to November 2021 were compared using one-sided unpaired t-tests across 11 neighborhoods located in Los Angeles County using data collected by the Los Angeles County Public Health department. Air pollutant information was collected from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sensors located in the 11 neighborhoods and were also analyzed using a one-sided unpaired t-test between neighborhoods that had a significant difference in COVID-19 death rates.
Out of 23 significant comparisons for COVID-19 weekly death rate, 18 comparisons confirmed that NO2 levels were higher in neighborhoods that had higher COVID-19 weekly death rates, similarly, 12 out of 19 comparisons confirmed the same relationship with CO levels, 14 out of 23 comparisons confirmed the same relationship with ozone levels, and 6 out of 6 comparisons confirmed the same relationship with PM 10.
Our study found a positive association with air pollutants and COVID-19 deaths as seen in the literature on a smaller area within Los Angeles County. This association along with biological plausibility suggests a potential causal link, which may serve as an important public health consideration for urban planners and policy makers in terms of reducing urban air pollution.
Mandalapu, Akhil; Jiao, Junfeng; and Azimian, Amin
"Exploring the Spatial Distribution of Air Pollutants and COVID-19 Death Rate: A Case Study for Los Angeles County, California,"
International Journal of Geospatial and Environmental Research: Vol. 9:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://dc.uwm.edu/ijger/vol9/iss1/4