I wanted to share with you my latest oped indicating that a relatively cleaner environment may well contribute to what appears to be a less lethal but still serious burden of COVID-19 in some nations thus far.
Having spent some time hunkered indoors in China where my husband and I have been Visiting Profs at Sichuan University, we have seen modest improvements in their ambient air quality, which has gone from typically horrid to occasionally tolerable.
From colleagues in Iran, we have heard that ambient air conditions there are worse than in China.
In addition to having some of the greatest concentrations of human beings on the planet, a number of other important environmental co-factors could explain why the disease seems more deadly in some locales.
Here are a some additional details that to add further context to the op-ed:
1) Tobacco smoking rates in Iran and Hebei, China are among the worst in the world. Numbers are telling: According to The Lancet, in 2015 while one in 10 men globally are Chinese, they smoke a third of all cigarettes in the world. If smoking patterns do not change — Professors Zhengming Chen and Richard Peto warn — China is on target to have more than 2 million lung cancer deaths within the next decade.
2) Air Pollution in Hebei: Real-Time Air Quality Index Visual Map shows that even with the reduced rate of production now, the center of steel-making Hebei regularly produces stifling levels of air pollution. It is notable that Chinese standards for declaring levels unhealthy or dangerous are much higher than standards in other nations.
3) Not only is factory production in China taking place under conditions that would never be accepted in most nations, especially in wintertime, air in both these areas regularly can contain levels of ultrafine particulate air pollution from straw and garbage burning, coal-burning, and diesel engine byproducts of incomplete combustion that would be illegal in most developed regions.
These citations do not at all mean that we are off the hook in the United States, but the lethality of COVID-19 could be lessened, especially if this nation comes together and takes very seriously the need for social distancing. If anything, the correlations strengthen the case for the U.S. keeping up its relatively effective environmental protections.
As economists would note, there are major co-benefits from policies that reduce pollution. Among the co-benefits of the shutdowns necessitated by coronavirus restrictions will turn out to be major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Wireless radiation is one of the many types of environmental pollution that can damage the immune system. The rollout of 5G is increasing our daily exposure to wireless microwave radiation from the new 5G/4G network antennas. Wireless microwave radiation increases the chances that cells will lose their capacity to repair damage that occurs everyday as a result of the normal processes of oxidation by increasing oxidative stress. Research has found continued oxidative stress can lead to chronic inflammation.
Scientist Nesrin Seyhan and her colleagues from Gazi University have shown that wireless radiation can damage tissues in the lung, heart, and liver. People with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and cancer) are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with any virus, including COVID-19. A large body of research indicates the 5G/4G network could contribute to a myriad of health problems.
Please click here to read my op-ed in U.S. News & World Report that shares relevant studies regarding pollution in other countries overwhelmingly impacted by Coronavirus.
Devra Davis PHD, MPH