The industrial plants in Port Allen’s River City of Louisiana have worried Diana LeBlanc since her children were young. In 1978, an explosion at the nearby Placid Oil Refinery forced his family to evacuate. “We had to leave in the middle of the night with two children,” LeBlanc said, now 70. “I must always be vigilant.”
LeBlanc worried that an industrial accident would endanger his family. But she now thinks that the threat was more insidious. LeBlanc, who has asthma, believes the symptoms he experienced while getting sick with coronovirus were made worse by decades of breathing in toxic pollution.
He said that once in my life, I thought that I will not escape from it. “I’m going to be a statistic. I was sick of that. ”
New research conducted in part by Propiosa suggests that he may be right.
COVID-19 can be made more severe – and, in some cases, more lethal – by a specific type of industrial emissions, called hazardous air pollutants, or new peers by HAPs, Propala, and researchers at the new state university -According to the research conducted. York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The study, published Friday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found this relationship in both rural counties of Louisiana and highly populated communities in New York.
The analysis examined air pollution and coronavirus deaths in approximately 3,100 US counties and found a close correlation between the level of hazardous pollutants and per capita mortality from COVID-19.
The US Environmental Protection Agency defines HAPs as known chemicals or cause cancer and other serious health problems. Under the Clean Air Act, industrial facilities emitting these pollutants are subject to regulations.
Hazardous air pollution can help explain the disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths in communities such as West Baton Rouge Parish, Port Allen’s home. With 39 deaths in the form of sept 7, the per capita mortality rate of COVID-19 ranked it in the top 3% of all US counties with at least 30 deaths. Many of its neighbors also top the list in Louisiana’s industrial corridor.
COVID-19 and air pollution exposure
The coronovirus epidemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 189,000 people nationwide, including more than 4,900 in Louisiana, provides a rare opportunity to study the public health consequences of both short- and long-term air pollution risks.
Because the virus affects the respiratory system, researchers have participated to study the possible relationship between mortality and air pollution. Preliminary studies, one of which is looking at particulate matter – distinct from HAP, but often found with them – have suggested a link.
Last year, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate and Propolis published the series Polytards Paradise, using data from an EPA model to determine dangerous air pollution levels along the Mississippi River’s industrial corridors. As the virus beat many of the same communities this spring, we wanted to determine whether air quality was contributing to the high mortality rate.
The SUNY-ProPublica analysis uses pollution information from the EPA’s 2014 National Air Toxics Assessment, a screening tool intended to help state agencies identify and measure sources of HAP. These pollutants can come from industrial facilities as well as power plants and vehicles.
NATA combines information about pollutants that affect the respiratory system in a variable called the “respiratory hazard index”. The analysis found that an increase in the hazard index at the county level corresponds to an increase in the mortality rate of COVID-19. This association was present at all levels of HAPs, including acceptable levels of EPA.
The analysis controlled for a long list of variables including population density, income, race, and age, as well as prevalence of smokers, adult obesity, preventable hospital stay, and physical inactivity.
A recent study by researchers at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health found that prolonged exposure to particulate matter made coronoviruses more deadly. But EPA officials and industry groups have rejected the research primarily on the grounds that it lacks peer review, a standard but time-consuming process where new research is evaluated by independent experts before publication.
ProPublica and The Times-Picayune and The Advocate sent EPA a copy of the new analysis on hazardous air pollutants, which has been reviewed, seeking comment. Agency spokesperson Ensta Jones said understanding the relationship between air pollution and COVID-19 is a “complex process that will take years.”
“Research in this area is just beginning, and the EPA looks forward to reviewing the papers when they are peer-reviewed and published,” she said.
The industrial corridor that stretches along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans is named “Cancer Street” because of the health risks associated with local chemical emissions. LeBlanc considered himself lucky because no one in his family had cancer. But she has asthma, and therefore has two children out of three.
According to EPA data, West Baton Rouge Parish has more air pollution affecting more than 99% of the respiratory system nationwide.
Research has long supported the association between asthma and exposure to air pollution. Although researchers are not sure how this happens, they believe that air pollutants can prevent the body’s immune system from being able to differentiate between a harmless allergen like a virus and a dangerous particle. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that people with asthma are at risk of becoming very ill with COVID-19.
In mid-March, LeBlanc started having flu-like symptoms. It started as fever and cough. “Then, the second week it became doubly bad,” he said. LeBlanc went to a drive-through site in Baron Rouge to test the coronovirus. His test came out positive.
She was sicker than she had ever been. “I had bad dreams. I had a cough. I had a pain in my bones. I couldn’t even touch myself, “she said. “How painful it was.”
LeBlanc has almost recovered. But she said that she still could not regain her senses of smell and taste and she quickly tired. She believes that her debilitating symptoms are partially owed to her compromised immune system. “What is the reason your immune system is down? Is this the air you are breathing? ” He asked.
A professor of public health at the University of British Columbia, Drs. Michael Breuer said that there is substantial evidence of a link between air pollution and respiratory infections. “If you are exposed to a viral infection or bacterial infection and are exposed to air pollution at the same time, this infection is likely to be serious,” he said.
But air pollution can have a lasting effect on health that makes COVID-19 symptoms more severe, whether or not a person continues to breathe in polluted air. Vijay Limaye, an environmental health scientist at the Science Center for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the short-term decline in air pollutants in New York City due to the lockdown measures in March and April did little to protect populations suffering from prolonged exposure.
“In some cases, our lungs, our brains, our heart are irreversible due to air pollution. And these exposures cause a certain amount of damage that cannot be reduced even after the air of a cleaner that has been cleaning for months or years, ”Limaye said.
ProPublica and SUNY researchers created a nationwide ranking of counties by combining two variables: COVID-19 mortality and the amount of pollution affecting the respiratory system. First on the list is the Bronx, which was hit exclusively by COVID-19.
“The air quality issues here and the type of decision that has taken place on us and has an asthma lane,” said Michele Johnson, an organizer of the South Bronx that has made us asthma. Rates in the country.
“Waste transfer stations, fossil fuel power plants, heavy diesel trucking,” said Johnson, listing various sources of pollution in the South Bronx. “We knew that what we had been fighting for all these years was going to make us more vulnerable to COVID mortality.”
While all five boroughs of New York City occupy the top 20 of the study rankings, except Staten Island, the rest of the list includes the more populous counties in Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia that include industrial facilities or power plants. Five counties in the top 20 are located on the Mississippi River in Louisiana’s chemical corridor, including West Baton Rouge Parish.
LeBlanc’s son took his family to a farm away from chemical plants for remuneration due to his concern about air pollution, and his mother is moving there soon. But a trucking company north of the property is seeking a permit from the state to increase its air pollution.
“I worry about my grandson,” he said. One of her grandchildren has severe asthma and allergies, sometimes requiring a nebulizer. “It’s just something we have to live with, and that’s the terror of it,” she said.
When LeBlanc’s children were young, he had a bag packed all the time and needed to be evacuated when an industrial accident occurred. “I just lived in fear of having my children up and running,” she said. “I did everything I could for them and came here for the next generation.”