In response to the release of a new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health showing that small increases in long-term particulate matter exposure are associated with large increases in the COVID-19 death rate, American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer, issued the following statement:
“Today’s air pollution and COVID-19 study provides stark new information about the deadly toll of particle pollution. The nation has known for some time that long-term exposure to particle pollution can worsen symptoms of lung disease, increase susceptibility to lung infection, trigger heart attack and stroke, and can even cause lung cancer and premature death. This new research from Harvard now links particle pollution exposure to a dramatically higher death rate from COVID-19.
“The researchers found that a small increase of just 1 microgram per cubic meter of particulate matter over the long term was associated with a 15% increase in the COVID-19 death rate.
“These findings illustrate that far too many Americans are facing multiple threats to their lung health at once, and when taken together, these different threats to lung health impacts can amplify each other. Even as the Lung Association and the nation respond to the urgent health needs of the COVID-19 crisis, we cannot afford to delay cleanup of dangerous air pollution. In fact, it is more important than ever.
“EPA is preparing to propose an update to the national air pollution standards for particulate matter. This study provides additional evidence to support a significant strengthening of both the annual and daily standards. The American Lung Association has called for a significant strengthening of the annual standard to 8 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) and the 24-hour standard 25 ug/m3. As a point of reference, the Harvard study finds a 1 ug/m3 increases risk of death due to COVID-19 by 15%.
“The Lung Association will continue to provide the public with up-to-date, science-based information on the pandemic at Lung.org/covid19. We will also work urgently to ensure that as the nation’s leaders respond to the crisis, they do not allow any delays or rollbacks of lifesaving air quality standards. Lives depend on it.”
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.