Study of Air Emissions And Virus Deaths Implicates EPA Policy

“A new study offers fresh evidence of a connection between dirty air and COVID-19 deaths, while suggesting that a 4-month-old EPA civil enforcement freeze has made the situation worse.

The working paper by American University researchers found concentrations of soot and ozone rose in counties with more industrial facilities that report emissions to an EPA pollution database since the agency relaxed enforcement in late March.

Overall, those counties had a 19% increase in daily death rates from COVID-19 from late March through most of May, compared to counties with fewer such facilities, the paper says. That increase was accompanied by an almost 39% jump in total cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus, with stronger results in areas with larger numbers of Black and unemployed residents, according to the research.

“Not only was there an increase in pollution, but this increase in pollution contributed to a worsening of the pandemic,” Claudia Persico, the study's lead author and an assistant public policy professor at American University, said during a Wednesday webinar.”

Sean Reilly reports for E&E News July 17, 2020.