A recent study led by the Barcelona Institutes of Health has provided the strongest evidence of a link between ambient air pollution and COVID-19. Specifically, the study was the first to show that chronic exposure to ambient air pollution increases the risk of developing the COVID-19 disease when exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This association was most pronounced in severe cases of COVID-19.
The study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives, an open access peer-reviewed journal supported by the United States National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The study relied on data from 9605 participants based in Catalonia, an area of northeastern Spain that encompasses the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragon.
SARS-CoV-2 Infection vs COVID-19 Disease
To understand the impact of the study’s results, it’s important to understand the distinction between SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 disease. COVID-19 disease occurs when an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes the symptoms we’re familiar with; shortness of breath, body aches, fever, respiratory irritation, and loss of taste or smell. However, SARS-CoV-2 infection can occur without causing any symptoms of COVID-19. These cases are referred as asymptomatic cases.