Industry stakeholders, along with some California legislators, are using the coronavirus pandemic to justify rolling back or delaying much-needed air quality protections. While we’re sympathetic to the global economic impacts of COVID-19, this is precisely the wrong time to stop California’s progress toward clean air, especially in inequitably burdened communities. Why? There is compelling early research showing air pollution exposure sharply increases severe COVID-19 outcomes.
A study from Harvard University, for example, shows that a slight increase in particulate matter (PM2.5) is associated with a 8% increase in deaths due to COVID-19. Another study in the journal Science in the Total Environment found an association between higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and increased deaths due to COVID-19. Yet another study showed an association between an increase in PM2.5 and COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions. Since other research shows air pollution is often higher in low-income communities and communities of color, pollution may be one of the factors contributing to the disparate COVID-19 health outcomes in these same communities.
Based on this research we joined other public health and environmental justice organizations in asking California’s Governor and legislature, as well as the California Air Resources Board, to oppose any rollbacks or delays in health-protective air quality regulations. We remain committed to protecting the public’s health and promoting equity by reducing air pollution, particularly in overburdened low-income communities and communities of color.