More and more we are seeing results from recent studies showing a correlation between higher COVID-19 death rates and people who live in air pollution riddled areas. Both in Italy and the United States, people that reside in areas with higher concentrations of PM2.5 in the atmosphere are at least 12% more likely to not survive a bout with COVID-19. These findings are consistent with the findings from the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak that claimed 349 lives in China.
The New York Times writer, Nadja Popovich, reports that after nearly a decade of improving the air quality nationally, the US EPA's data shows that PM 2.5 has increased in the past two years. This 180 turn of progress has been identified as likely primarily coming from increases in driving and the burning of natural gas. However, in the West, wildfires has been a large cause of the increase as well. Researchers suggest that due to a decrease of enforcement of the Clean Air Act, less businesses are concerned with their pollution.
The Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) network measures the chemical composition of atmospheric particulate matter at over 160 locations throughout the United States. As part of the routine quality control process, we noted decreases in the network-wide vanadium (V) and nickel (Ni) concentrations in 2015 relative to the previous years. Enriched V and Ni with respect to soil are indicative of heavy fuel oil burning and are often used as tracers for emissions from marine vessels.