Colorado study reveals potential link between air pollution and coronavirus deaths |

Colorado study reveals potential link between air pollution and coronavirus deaths

The analysis by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also underscores the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on communities of color

John Ingold
Colorado Sun

Living in a community with higher rates of air pollution may be associated with a greater risk of coronavirus infection, hospitalization and death, according to a study released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The study also finds that there is a greater risk of coronavirus infection and severe outcomes in communities with larger proportions of people of color, higher numbers of essential workers, and higher rates of mobility.

While not yet formally peer reviewed, the research reinforces one of the most consistent findings throughout the pandemic — that inequity within Colorado and across the nation means the burden of the virus falls very differently on different communities.

“This study for us really underscores that higher rates of underlying health conditions, air pollution and worse COVID-19 outcomes go hand-in-hand with the disproportionate impact on communities of color,” said Kristy Richardson, Colorado’s state toxicologist and one of the authors of the study. CDPHE statistical analysts Kevin Berg and Paul Romer Present are also authors on the report.

But the study’s findings were also delivered with a note of caution. Richardson said measuring air pollution at the local level is difficult because there are not enough monitoring stations spread across the state. As a result, the study looked at four models that can be used to estimate fine-particle air pollution at the census-tract level. But census tracts can vary widely in size, from as small as a neighborhood in an urban area to as large as a whole rural county.

In analyses using three of the models, and taking into account things like the age of people living in the census tracts, the study found that an increase in air pollution was associated with an increase in the risk of coronavirus infection, hospitalization and death. But the results were only statistically significant for one of the models — one developed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun, click here.

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