Effects of Short-Term Air Pollution Exposure on U.S. COVID-19 Mortality
20 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2022 Last revised: 5 May 2022
Date Written: January 11, 2022
Prior studies have shown that long-term exposure to air pollution predicts higher COVID-19 mortality, but there is limited evidence on the effect of short-term fluctuations in air pollution levels.
To determine whether short-term changes in county air-pollution levels predict COVID-19 mortality in the U.S.
We use county-level data regarding COVID-19 deaths, air pollution, temperature, precipitation, and lagged SARS-CoV2 infection and vaccination rates, with county and date fixed effects, to assess whether, and for how long, variation in local air pollution predicts COVID-19 mortality rates.
We use county-by-day data on COVID-19 deaths, infections, and vaccination rates, the aerosol optical depth (AOD) measure of daily air pollution from NASA MODIS satellite data, and Oregon State University PRISM database on daily precipitation and temperature, over March 2020 through August 2021.
2,942 U.S. Counties with data on COVID-19 mortality and air pollution levels, after interpolation for days with missing pollution data.
Daily air pollution levels; lagged daily COVID-19 infection and vaccination rates.
Main Outcomes and Measurements
County-level COVID-19 deaths measured as the natural log of (7-day moving average daily deaths +1).
Higher AOD levels predict modestly higher COVID-19 mortality for the next 2-3 weeks, controlling for local lagged infections, lagged vaccination rates, temperature, and precipitation. A one-standard-deviation increase in AOD over the previous 14 days predicts 5.9% higher COVID-19 mortality.
Conclusion and Relevance
The evidence in this study on the association between higher near-term air pollution and COVID-19 mortality. suggests that persons who are infected with or at risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection should limit their exposure to air pollution. Paying greater attention to indoor ventilation and air filtering, including in hospitals, may reduce COVID-19 deaths.
Funding: The project described was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health, Award Number UL1TR001436.
Declaration of Interests: The authors have no competing interests.
Keywords: air pollution and mortality; COVID-19
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