Hailing from Greece, Sotirios Papathanasiou is an air quality expert. His blog, See The Air, focuses on air quality monitoring, pollution analysis, and activism pushing cities around the world to concentrate on clean air.
As we post this blog, most of our daily lives have been disrupted by the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. During a time of uncertainty shrouded by fear, we are grateful for first responders, medical staff, and scientists everywhere at the frontline of this pandemic.
We have also had many people reach out to us with questions about how air pollution is affected by the outbreak. We thought we’d take some time to start a blog series to examine the relationship between air pollution and coronavirus COVID-19.
For this first post, we would like to share our first impressions of what’s been said in the press and our interactive mapping tool for anyone who would like to explore the relationship between air quality and COVID-19.
Clarity’s initial opinion: Since the government lockdowns began in China and Northern Italy, satellite data has shown an observable reduction of air pollution in these regions (see below). With the usual pollution sources from industrial and transportation activity on pause, air quality data over the past few weeks suggest just how fast changes in human activities can lead to cleaner air.
We are conducting further analysis and will share our findings in the next post of this “air pollution and COVID-19” series. Stay tuned!
Clarity’s opinion: It’s very likely that air pollution makes us more vulnerable to COVID-19. Extensive research has shown that air pollution causes numerous respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia and asthma, in children and adults (link1, link2, link3, link4).
In addition, bad air quality may have increased the death toll of a previous coronavirus outbreak, the SARS pandemic of 2003. One study on SARS patients found that people living in regions with a moderate amount of air pollution were 84 percent more likely to die than those in regions with cleaner air.
However, no research on the relationship between pollution and the new COVID-19 virus has been published yet.*
*Are you a researcher working on understanding this relationship? Visit our open data tool or email us at email@example.com to see how we can help.
Clarity has added COVID-19 data from John Hopkins University to our Clarity OpenMap. We hope this can be a helpful tool for the academic community and the public alike to take a deeper look at the relationship between COVID-19 and air pollution.
In addition to exploring active cases in each region, we’ve sorted through the data so you can visualize cases in a plot by region and time:
COVID-19 data vs. Air pollution data
Users can compare the air quality and COVID-19 data in the same timeline side by side and see if there is a potential relationship between COVID-19 and air pollution.
We are under a shelter-in-place order in California, but very fortunate to have the ability and resources to continue our work remotely. This is not the case for everyone so I want to end this note with a reminder to practice compassion during this time of crisis. Support the most vulnerable folks of our communities by purchasing only what you need, donating money, extra supplies and food, and looking out for our neighbors.
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