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Long-term exposure to PM10 above WHO guidelines exacerbates COVID-19 severity and mortality

Marques M., Correiq E., Ibarretxe D., Anoro E., Arroyo JA., Jerico C., Borralo R., la Miret M., Naf S., Pardo A., Perea V., Perez-Bernalte R., Ramirez-Montesinos R., Royuela M., Soler C., Urquizu-Padilla M., Zomora A., Pedro-Botet J., Domingo J.

Highlights

  • The severity and mortality of COVID-19 is predicted by long-term exposure to PM10.
  • PM10 is a more important variable than some already stated comorbidities.
  • The higher the PM10 concentration the higher the number of severe COVID-19 cases.
  • The higher the PM10 concentration the higher the number of COVID-19 deaths.

Background

Age, sex, race and comorbidities are insufficient to explain why some individuals remain asymptomatic after SARS-CoV-2 infection, while others die. In this sense, the increased risk caused by the long-term exposure to air pollution is being investigated to understand the high heterogeneity of the COVID-19 infection course.

Objectives

We aimed to assess the underlying effect of long-term exposure to NO2 and PM10 on the severity and mortality of COVID-19.

Methods

A retrospective observational study was conducted with 2112 patients suffering COVID-19 infection. We built two sets of multivariate predictive models to assess the relationship between the long-term exposure to NO2 and PM10 and COVID-19 outcome. First, the probability of either death or severe COVID-19 outcome was predicted as a function of all the clinical variables together with the pollutants exposure by means of two regularized logistic regressions. Subsequently, two regularized linear regressions were constructed to predict the percentage of dead or severe patients. Finally, odds ratios and effects estimates were calculated.

Results

We found that the long-term exposure to PM10 is a more important variable than some already stated comorbidities (i.e.: COPD/Asthma, diabetes, obesity) in the prediction of COVID-19 severity and mortality. PM10 showed the highest effects estimates (1.65, 95% CI 1.32-2.06) on COVID-19 severity. For mortality, the highest effect estimates corresponded to age (3.59, 95% CI 2.94-4.40), followed by PM10 (2.37, 95% CI 1.71-3.32). Finally, an increase of 1 µg/m3 in PM10 concentration causes an increase of 3.06% (95% CI 1.11%-4.25%) of patients suffering COVID-19 as a severe disease and an increase of 2.68% (95% CI 0.53%-5.58%) of deaths.

Discussion

These results demonstrate that long-term PM10 burdens above WHO guidelines exacerbate COVID-19 health outcomes. Hence, WHO guidelines, the air quality standard established by the Directive 2008/50/EU, and that of the US-EPA should be updated accordingly to protect human health.

[Source: Environment International]