Coronavirus: does pollution play a role?

With the number of cases rising day after day, and the calculations on the lethality of Covid-19, which is higher here than in the rest of the world, one wonders what factors have favoured such a massive spread of the coronavirus, especially in Lombardy, Italy, and why the dead are so numerous.

RECORD-BREAKING PO VALLEY. Some partial answers have already arrived in recent days: an older population and the way in which the swabs are performed are certainly factors that weigh heavily. But between the regions most affected and the rest of Europe there is also another difference, which for the lungs and diseases of the respiratory system counts for a great deal: the Po Valley is the most polluted region of the continent. For more than two months, from the beginning of December to the first week of February 2020, the concentrations of fine dust and nitrogen dioxide in Lombardy have been almost constantly well above the legal limits and this may have affected the spread of the coronavirus and the severity of the disease. 

Several scientific studies account for the possible link. A few years ago, a research conducted in Beijing found that many microorganisms - including viruses - spread in the air along with smog particles. There are also numerous studies that show that people living in polluted areas are more susceptible to respiratory infections and that smog aggravates their symptoms. A research conducted in China on SARS, a disease very similar to Covid-19, had found a higher lethality in the most polluted areas of the country during the 2002-2003 epidemic.

The phenomenon has two possible explanations. The first is that smog favours all respiratory diseases, and that the coronavirus - as the data testify - affects more severely those who already have diseases. The second, exquisitely biological, is that pollution hinders the activity of a particular type of cells (the alveolar macrophages) that have the task of destroying any infectious agents that may have penetrated into the lungs. Thus knocking out one of the few defences that our body could deploy against the new infectious agent. (source:

While big industry slows down and in some cases stops production, pollution also slows down, in Italy as in China and wherever restrictive measures have been taken in attempt to halt the spread of the virus. The Earth is taking a breather from human activities and is helping us to reflect on the very serious damage we are causing to the environment, to ourselves, to life. Forced to stop without being able to breathe, the time has come to radically rethink our lifestyle and economic development. Reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink! 

Say Yes to Life, Earth Thanks! 🌿


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