COVID-19 Changes Air Quality but It’s not All that Good

In two studies, recently published in the journal Geographical Research, researchers analyzed air quality over many countries in the world and found that levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter pollution over China, Western Europe, and the US has significantly decreased, but at the same time, levels of surface ozone in China have increased.COVID-19 Changes Air Quality

For their studies, scientists used satellite measurements of air quality over countries that became major coronavirus epicenters: China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and the US. They found that levels of pollution decreased by 40% over industrial areas of China, 20% over Belgium and Germany, and 19 to 40% in various areas of the United States.

At the same time, scientists report that with a 60% reduction in nitrogen dioxide and a 35% reduction in particulate matter, secondary pollutant surface ozone, which can cause severe health issues, such as pulmonary and cardiac disease, increased by 150–200%.

Lead researcher of one of the studies Guy Brasseur, an atmospheric scientist of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, says: “It means that by just reducing the [nitrogen dioxide] and the particles, you won’t solve the ozone problem.”

Exposure to Air Pollution Linked to Higher Heart Attack Risk

A new study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests that exposure to ultrafine particles (UFP) of air pollution can be a trigger for heart attacks.

To investigate the link between UFP and nonfatal heart attacks, the team of researchers analyzed data from air pollution monitoring sites of Augsburg in Germany from 2005 to 2015. They also compared these data with the cases of nonfatal heart attacks in the city during the same period.

The first author of the study Kai Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, CT, says: “This study confirms something that has long been suspected — air pollution’s tiny particles can play a role in serious heart disease. This is particularly true within the first few hours of exposure. Elevated levels of UFP are a serious public health concern.”

Air Pollution May Increase Risk of Developing Schizophrenia

A new study, conducted by the researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, suggests that exposure to air pollution in childhood may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.Air Pollution May Increase Risk of Developing Schizophrenia

For the study, the scientists analyzed data received from 23,355 people who were born from May 1, 1981, till December 31, 2002. Their evolution was followed up from the participants 10th birthday to the first occurrence of schizophrenia, emigration, death or December 31, 2012, whichever happened first.

The analysis showed that people who were exposed to high levels of air pollution during their childhood had a higher risk of schizophrenia later in life.

Senior researcher Henriette Thisted Horsdal, Ph.D., says: The study shows that the higher the level of air pollution, the higher the risk of schizophrenia. For every 10 micrograms per cubic meter [referring to the concentration of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide in ambient air] increase in the daily average, the risk of schizophrenia increases by approximately 20%.”

Air Pollution May Significantly Contribute to Hair Loss

New research from the Future Science Research Centre in the Republic of Korea suggests that air pollution may have a great impact on hair loss.Air Pollution May Significantly Contribute to Hair Loss

For their research, a team of scientists exposed human follicle dermal papilla cells (HFDPC) to particles of dust and diesel of size PM10, which diameter is generally 10 micrometer and smaller. The analysis of the gathered data showed that exposure to PM10-like particles lowered levels of a protein key for hair growth.

Lead author of the study Hyuk Chul Kwon says: “Our research explains the mode of action of air pollutants on [HFDPCs], showing how the most common air pollutants lead to hair loss.”

Ambient Black Carbon Particles Can Cross the Placenta

A new study, published in the Nature Communications, finds that black carbon particles can get into the part of the placenta that feeds the developing fetus.Ambient Black Carbon Particles Can Cross the Placenta

To check the influence of the soot, a team of researchers examined placentas from 5 pre-term and 23 full-term births. With the help of high-resolution imaging, the scientists detected particles of black carbon in the fetal side of every placenta taken for examination.

Of all the participants, 10 mothers who lived in high traffic areas and were exposed to the highest levels of pollution during pregnancy had the highest levels of particles in the placenta.

The scientists write in their paper: “Our results demonstrate that the human placental barrier is not impenetrable for particles. Further research will have to show whether the particles cross the placenta and reach the fetus.”

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