A new study links concentration of a certain type of pollution to deaths from COVID-19 in Europe.
The study found that 78 percent of fatalities in the areas it looked at were focused in the five regions that also had the highest pollution levels.
The study used coronavirus fatality data from 66 administrative regions in Italy, Spain, France and Germany through March 19. The five regions with the most cases, located in northern Italy and central Spain, also had the highest level of nitrogen dioxide combined with conditions that prevent the gas from being dispersed.
“These results indicate that the long-term exposure to this pollutant may be one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the COVID-19 virus in these regions and maybe across the whole world,” the study’s abstract said.
Nitrogen dioxide forms from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment. Exposure to it is linked to respiratory diseases including asthma and long-term exposure may increase susceptibility to respiratory infections, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
According to the agency, nitrogen dioxide can also form a pollutant called particulate matter.
A separate study from Harvard recently linked exposure to particulate matter to deaths from the virus in the U.S.