As smog season in Asia begins, the second wave of Covid-19 and the bad air quality could make the situation worse. Breathing polluted air can have a dramatic effect on the immune system and the respiratory tract. Harmful airborne particles also known as PM 2.5 penetrate into the body and affect the epithelial cells in our lungs. Epithelial cells serve as a barrier in our bodies and protect us from bacteria and viruses. Once the particles affect the epithelial cells it weakens our immune system and can trigger cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke.
During the first lockdown earlier this year, we experienced a radical change in the quality of the air we breathe. In cities like New Delhi in India, where the air is normally choking, levels went down over 70 percent. The temporarily cleaner skies and the lower levels of harmful particles had an immediate impact, with less emergency room visits and fewer Covid-19 cases due to air pollution.
A study by Harvard University has found a link between higher levels of air pollution and higher death rates from Covid-19. And as the number of infected people is increasing again, experts are now worried it will escalate even further due to smog season and the cold weather, as the virus tends to survive longer in dry cold air. But there is hope, this time citizens may be better prepared since they’re already more cautions and wear face masks, which protect them from polluted air and Covid-19.
The pandemic has challenged us all, but it also made us think of how we affect the air we breathe. The pandemic gave us a preview of what could be our reality with cleaner healthier skies, even though it would take decades to get there.