The link between Covid-19 and air pollution is particularly strong. A study set to publish in July linked six air pollutants in 120 Chinese cities with cases of the viral disease. Researchers in Italy have also shown that long-term exposure to air pollution is “significantly correlated with cases of Covid-19” in up to 71 provinces in that country. And a study that used data from California, set to publish in Environmental Research in August, showed that the air pollutants PM2.5, PM 10, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide were associated with coronavirus infections. The authors of that study concluded that reducing exposure to these pollutants “will contribute to defeating COVID-19.”
In addition to air pollutants, Birnbaum pointed to the potential for endocrine-disrupting chemicals to make people more vulnerable to Covid-19. Among them are BPA and its replacements; phthalates, which are found in makeup, nail polish, and plastics, particularly food packaging; and PFAS, a class of industrial contaminants most famously used to make Teflon and other nonstick products.
PFAS, which also interferes with the functioning of the endocrine system, has been shown to cause several underlying conditions that leave people more vulnerable to Covid-19. People with higher levels of PFAS in their bodies are more likely to gain weight and have a harder time losing it. The chemicals not only increase obesity risk in those exposed, but also in the granddaughters of women who were exposed. And PFAS is associated with asthma and hypertension, two other conditions that appear to worsen people’s chances of surviving Covid-19. PFAS causes kidney disease and elevates levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood, which also increase the chances that people with Covid-19 will be hospitalized or need intensive care.The Intercept Air Pollutants, PFAS Increase Coronavirus Deaths