Research on COVID-19 and air pollution: A path towards advancing exposure science

2022-04-04

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an extraordinary incidence of morbidity and mortality, with almost 6 million deaths worldwide at the time of this writing (https://covid19.who.int/). There has been a pressing need for research that would shed light on factors – especially modifiable factors – that could reduce risks to human health. At least several hundred studies addressing the complex relationships among transmission of SARS-CoV-2, air pollution, and human health have been published. However, these investigations are limited by available and consistent data. The project goal was to seek input into opportunities to improve and fund exposure research on the confluence of air pollution and infectious agents such as SARS-CoV-2. Thirty-two scientists with expertise in exposure science, epidemiology, risk assessment, infectious diseases, and/or air pollution responded to the outreach for information. Most of the respondents expressed value in developing a set of common definitions regarding the extent and type of public health lockdown. Traffic and smoking ranked high as important sources of air pollution warranting source-specific research (in contrast with assessing overall ambient level exposures). Numerous important socioeconomic factors were also identified. Participants offered a wide array of inputs on what they considered to be essential studies to improve our understanding of exposures. These ranged from detailed mechanistic studies to improved air quality monitoring studies and prospective cohort studies. Overall, many respondents indicated that these issues require more research and better study design. As an exercise to solicit opinions, important concepts were brought forth that provide opportunities for scientific collaboration and for consideration for funding prioritization. Further conversations on these concepts are needed to advance our thinking on how to design research that moves us past the documented limitations in the current body of research and prepares us for the next pandemic.

Authors: Carol J Burns, Judy S LaKind, Josh Naiman, Denali Boon, Jane Ellen Clougherty, Ana M Rule, Angelika Zidek
; Full Source: Environmental research 2022 Apr 4;113240. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.113240.