Air Pollution Causes Greater Risk of Covid-19 Hospitalisation

Recover Better. Stand Up for Human Rights. Photo: UN (Representational Image)
Recover Better. Stand Up for Human Rights. Photo: UN (Representational Image)

As part of recovery, the Green New Deal will help London to become greener and fairer by creating new jobs and skills for Londoners.

A new report by researchers from Imperial College London, commissioned by the Mayor Sadiq Khan, has found a link between a person’s exposure to air pollution and the severity with which they will experience the effects of Covid-19.   

There is growing evidence linking exposure to air pollution with the worst effects of Covid-19 and this new review  led by  Imperial’s Environmental Research Group and commissioned through Imperial Projects, provides a comprehensive overview of  the best  recent  evidence and shows some indication that past exposure to toxic air leads to more severe cases of Covid-19.

Imperial researchers evaluated studies from all over the world and their findings have significance far beyond the implications for London. Globally, around seven million deaths a year are linked to air pollution, according to the World Health Organization, making it the biggest environmental killer.   

The Mayor believes it is clear from this emerging evidence that reducing air pollution is crucial to helping build resilience to Covid-19 and other infectious diseases and it is vital we take bold action now to tackle poor air quality. 

“We already know that air pollution  is  linked to  life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease and asthma. But until now previous studies have underestimated the role air pollution plays in infectious diseases like pneumonia, bronchitis and most recently Covid-19,” said Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. 

“This new review led by Imperial researchers makes it crystal clear that tackling air pollution is a vital part of building our resilience to Covid-19, and other infections like it. The decisions we make now to tackle air pollution are truly a matter of life and death,” he added.

Sadiq has pledged to be the greenest Mayor London has ever had, with a mandate from Londoners to put environment and climate policies at the heart of his second term in office. The central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has reduced nitrogen dioxide roadside concentrations by nearly a half and the number of state schools located in areas exceeding legal limits has reduced from 455 in 2016 to 14 today.

It has also led to reductions that are five times greater than the national average. Later this year, the Ultra Low Emission Zone will be expanded up to the North and South Circular in a crucial step in London’s green recovery. 

As part of that recovery, the Green New Deal will help London to become greener and fairer by creating new jobs and skills for Londoners, ensuring London becomes a net zero-carbon city by 2030 and a zero-waste city by 2050. Sadiq’s Green New Deal fund is already investing £10 million in programmes that support around 1,000 green jobs, while tackling the climate emergency and inequalities.

Both air pollution and Covid-19 compound existing inequalities in society. Previous research has shown that those exposed to the worst air pollution are more likely to be deprived Londoners from low income backgrounds who are least likely to own a car. Those living in areas with high levels of pollution are also disproportionately likely to be from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

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Rakesh Raman