Giving Compass’ Take:
• Jennifer Perron and Samantha Gross look closely at the detrimental effects of bad air quality during COVID-19 and how they’ve been largely ignored.
• How might this neglect lead to the disproportionate levels of COVID-19 damage in BIPOC communities? What can we do to call attention to the impact of poor air quality during COVID-19?
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in the United States, with deaths surpassing 169,000 and “red zones” emerging in 21 states, preliminary research suggests that people living in communities with significant exposure to air pollutants have an increased risk of hospitalization or even death if exposed to COVID-19.
In recent months, there have been significant rollbacks of major rules affecting air quality, including weakened mercury and air toxics standards for coal plants, reduced stringency for new car fuel economy standards, and denied petitions from states requesting regulatory assistance for air pollution that crosses state lines.
Evidence has shown that exposure to air pollution can increase susceptibility to and exacerbate respiratory illnesses, particularly in urban areas. Research is mounting on the ways that poor local air quality may be linked with adverse health outcomes from COVID-19. A recent study found that areas in the Netherlands with more air pollution have greater caseloads and hospitalizations from COVID-19, while another found a similar relationship with adverse health outcomes in China, and another between air pollution and the spread of COVID-19 in Italy. An earlier Harvard study found that long-term exposure to an additional 1 microgram per cubic meter of fine particulate matter was associated with an 8% increase in death rates from COVID-19.
In the early days of the pandemic, and while much of the nation was focused on public health and economic concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would use discretion in monitoring and enforcement. This meant it would not pursue penalties for monitoring, testing, and reporting of civil pollution violations, effectively reducing the efficacy of air, water, and hazardous waste rules during the crisis.
Read the full article about air quality during COVID-19 by Jennifer Perron and Samantha Gross at Brookings.
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