New Research Links Long-Term Particle Pollution Exposure to COVID-19 Deaths

Study Shows Importance of Continued Enforcement of Air Pollution Control Measures

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 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.”

For more information, contact:

Elizabeth Cook
[email protected]

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