Environmentally Speaking…

Gabriela Carvajal, Web Assistant

        It was December 2019 when an unknown virus was detected in mainland China. Thus far this virus has left an imprint in our society that will unlikely be forgotten, but as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world it has left a significantly large impact on our environment.

       While many have doubted the fact that this coronavirus has influenced our environment, results are showing otherwise. Upon China’s lockdown 2 months ago, it has not only curbed     the country’s air pollution drastically, but it has potentially saved over 50,000 – 70,000 premature deaths originating from poor air pollution levels according to calculations done by Marshall Burke, an Earth system scientist at Stanford University. (CNN) Ranking two of the most polluted parts of the world, China and India have seen unprecedented changes in their air pollution levels decreasing by almost 30% in some places. (National Geographic)  For sure, no one would have guessed the fact that this quarantine is a much needed cleansing for our climate. 

       A study taken from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined data on PM 2.5, which are tiny pollutant particles. They discovered that coronavirus patients in areas heavily engulfed by air pollution were more likely to die from those living in cleaner air, by 15 percent! (New York Times). Interestingly enough, researchers discovered a similar pattern during the SARS outbreak in 2003, where patients living in the polluted parts of China were twice as likely to die than those outside the polluted areas. 

        Looking at the world collectively, the areas that were hit strongly by the virus naming Wuhan, Italy, Iran, South Korea, and the U.S. are somewhat in the same latitudinal zones, where colder and drier air masses tend to be instrumental in the spread of the virus. It is even shown that there are similar humidity and temperature patterns in most of the major outbreak areas. For this reason, it is important to be mindful of climate change. While it is often spoken in political and economic degrees, it is key to realize its relationships with our health. Climate change has affected the resources we need to survive starting with “cleaner air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.” (WHO) With weather patterns changing and rising year after year it has not only affected the ozone layer but it has raised the levels of other pollutants that can intensify certain cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. While we aren’t sure if climate change affects the transmission of COVID-19 we do know that certain effects of climate change have resulted in the rise of diseases. Normally, diseases are transmitted from animals to humans, however with deforestation levels animals have been forced to interact with others and spread unknown germs, making it confusing to track. What also doesn’t help our environment is the fact that our global health care system accounts for four percent of all global emissions! (Harvard C-Change)! While we are still learning the relationship between COVID-19 and our environment we must be mindful of what is already being a costly proposition, so given these circumstances, all we can do for now is keep our distance and await for the summer sun.