Investigating the association of long-term air pollution exposure with risk and severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection

Study code

Lead researcher
Dr Annalan Navaratnam

Study type
Data only

Institution or company
University of Cambridge

Researcher type

Speciality area
COVID, Public Health and Prevention


Current evidence suggests that increased long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to individuals being more likely to be infected with COVID-19. Furthermore, this evidence suggests that if infected, there is a higher chance of having worse symptoms and requiring more interventions if that individual has been exposed to higher levels of air pollution previously.

These studies have not always accounted for other conditions that may put others at higher risk, e.g., underlying medical conditions, smoking. They are also specific to one group of people, e.g., healthcare professionals, or specific locations that may not reflect the conditions of other locations. For example, air pollution is higher in cities than rural areas, but so was the availability of COVID-19 testing in the early stages of the pandemic.

By analysing data from multiple studies in different locations, which also has comprehensive information about each participant (e.g., underlying health conditions), we can identify if there truly is an increased risk of infection and worse outcomes from infection. This will provide more strength to current policies trying to reduce air pollution emissions and will enable healthcare providers to assess whether specific areas are at higher risk of viral infections such as flu and COVID-19 based on air pollution levels.