Calls for review into links between air pollution and Covid-19 deaths

“It is inexcusable to try and find out why the BAME community is adversely affected by Covid-19 and not consider the relationship between Covid-19 and air pollution.” Growing calls have been made for a further review into how air pollution affects Covid-19 deaths, particularly in relation to the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community.

London skyline on a smoggy day
London skyline on a smoggy day
Olivia Rutherford

Demand is growing for a more “comprehensive” government review considering the links between air pollution and Covid-19 deaths.  

A Public Health England (PHE) Report released on 2 June exploring the ‘disparities in the risk and outcomes of Covid-19’ was criticised for not taking into consideration the impact of exposure to low air quality on Covid-19 deaths, particularly with regard to the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community.

The Green Party Women’s spokeswoman on air pollution, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, states that there has been “emerging research in this area in the past five years” which the PHE is “aware of” regarding air pollution having “carried out research in the past to look at inequality in health to get a better understanding in order to narrow the obvious gap”.

Currently, the World Health Organisation reports that nine out of ten people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants globally and that around seven million people die every year from exposure to polluted air.

Recent research points to the link between air pollution exposure and adverse outcomes of Covid-19, especially for ethnic minorities. Researchers from the University of Harvard highlight that even a small increase in previous pollution exposure is linked to an eight per cent rise in Covid-19 deaths.

Speaking to the Guardian, Professor Francesca Dominici from Harvard University said: “We have a large body of evidence that health risks associated with air pollution exposure are higher among ethnic minorities.” 

Adoo-Kissi-Debrah added: “It is inexcusable to try and find out why the BAME community is adversely affected by Covid-19 and not consider the relationship between Covid-19 and air pollution and what impact that could be having on the health of the BAME community.” 

“The fact that thousands are dying surely warrants a far more comprehensive review and proper recommendations so the community are able to protect themselves".

Last week, The Green Party called for an independent inquiry into the “disproportionate impact” of Covid-19 on BAME people, with Greens of Colour Chairperson Azzees Minott commenting that the recent government report does not “go far enough”.

Green Party Home Affairs correspondent Shahrar Ali who wrote for Green World last month on BAME life chances, Covid inequalities and death, stated: “The government must now make combating air pollution a post-Covid health priority also driven by science and substantial risk to health.”