The fast spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has resulted in the emergence of several hot-spots around the world. Several of these are located in areas associated with high levels of air pollution. This study investigates the relationship between exposure to particulate matter and COVID-19 incidence in 355 municipalities in the Netherlands. The results show that atmospheric particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 is a highly significant predictor of the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related hospital admissions. The estimates suggest that expected COVID-19 cases increase by nearly 100 percent when pollution concentrations increase by 20 percent.
Air pollution has emerged as the fourth-leading risk factor for deaths worldwide. While pollution-related deaths mainly strike young children and the elderly, these deaths also result in lost labor income for working-age men and women. The loss of life is tragic. The cost to the economy is substantial. The infographic below is mainly based on findings from The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the economic case for action, a joint study of the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).