Written by m.wilson

“Increasing evidence supports the association between air pollution and respiratory infections. It has been demonstrated that exposure to air pollutants can induce oxidative stress, resulting in the production of free radicals, which in turn, may damage the respiratory system, reducing the resistance to viral and bacterial infections”
– (Ciencewicki and Jaspers, 2007)

It’s becoming more important for individuals to concern themselves with the pathogenesis of respiratory illness – (and with breathing in general). Scientific findings correlating the effects of air pollution with illness create significant implications for the current Covid-19 pandemic, a virus revealing itself to be a rapidly mutating disease that, with any luck, will not outpace the available vaccines. Covid-19 has also made more apparent the need for scientific research that will provide additional data on the specific effects of air pollution on health outcomes.


 “Particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are among the outdoor air pollutants that are major factors in diseases, causing especially adverse respiratory effects in humans.”

Air pollution is now regarded as a major health hazard within much of the scientific community, though research pertaining to related outcomes (not only to mortality but illnesses) is viewed as “rather scarce.”  According to (Bauer, Sanchez, and Jaspers, 2012), there have been vast improvements in air quality since The Clean Air Act of 1970, with levels of particulate pollutants (diesel, cigarette smoke, and biomass) decreasing by 83 percent. However, more recently, the American Lung Association in the “State of the Air Report” reported that half of all Americans live in counties with unhealthy levels of air pollution.

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Ozone – a gaseous pollutant, is “good up high but bad nearby” (US EPA, 2014). Stratospheric Ozone protects life on earth from UV radiation, but on the ground, it becomes bad ozone – which is the main ingredient in urban smog – and is created by chemical reactions originating from industrial, vehicle, electrical utilities, etc. (EPA.gov, 2014). Because it generates oxidative stress, Ozone causes the innate immune system to turn upon itself, which lowers the body’s defenses, making it more susceptible to invaders and bacteria (Science Daily, 2007).

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‘Poor air quality’ illnesses, (and prior to Covid-19), are responsible for more deaths than motor vehicle accidents; and include (but are not limited to): lung and heart diseases, aggravated asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and respiratory allergies (Brauer, 2010 as cited in Environmental Pollution, 2020). Various scientific models helped to determine that in China back in 2016, there were 4000 deaths per day caused by air pollution, (higher than the Dec 20′ Covid-19 death rate in the U.S.), adding up to 1.6 million for the year (Environmental Pollution, 2020). The current research has also begun to show, for example, that daily average seasonal air pollutants are now directly attributable to higher mortality rates within communities and hospitals (Pothirat et al., 2019 as cited in Environmental Research Vol 187, 2020).

Air pollution appears to be a kind of breeding ground for Covid -19 in the way that it bolsters the success and therefore the life of the virus. One of the contributing factors is the pollution and toxicity that weakens living things to the effects of all types of viruses, and which is now a concern for at least the, 1 in 16 people tested (NBC News, 2021).


“Viruses are able to interact with ‘distantly related organisms’ because of an understanding of a shared architecture…” 

Human susceptibility to viruses – Viruses are parasites, and according to (Current Opinion in Virology, 2013), scientists, for the most part, stopped trying to install them upon the Tree of Life during the 1920’s. Objections to their membership stem from the parasite’s many biological dissimilarities. For example, viruses, unlike normal living things, only become active when they come in contact with their host. Once this occurs, they begin to use the host’s chemistry and environment to become active. It then binds to other cells and injects their genetic material – which is very similar to cellular organisms, but with vast energetic differences.

Unlike typical “life,” viruses lack energy, which is one of the reasons they need hosts, – and without carbon metabolism (a carbohydrate factory) – would not be considered “living.” The next difference is that viruses do not reproduce; they instead ‘copy’ themselves and don’t really have ‘parents.’ It is mainly a virus’s ability to evolve that makes a parasite similar to the living.

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“Indeed, even today many scientists accept that if something evolves it is alive. Under this premise, the idea that viruses might be extremely simple ancestral life forms seems logical. The nucleocentric origin-of-life theory becomes ‘virocentric’.”


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Haladane’s 1929 essay The Origin of Life presented a classification of viruses as living entities – and as having existed for millions of years before the assemblage of the first cell. While the virus is certain to be an ancestor of sorts, and since Molecular Clock dating analyses suggested that coronavirus, for example, is at least 10,000 years old (Journal of Virology, 2013), other findings contend that the virus is likely 300 million years old – and provide evidence of the “coevolution & codivergence between bat and avian species and the coronavirus genera.”


The virocentric evolution – concept of life proposes the following =

“1. Parasitize on all cellular life forms.

2. Represent the most physically abundant and genetically diverse biological entities on Earth.

3. Exploit all conceivable strategies of genome replication and expression in contrast with the single, universal strategy employed by cellular life forms.

4. Form a coherent ‘virus world’ that is held together by a small set of virus hallmark genes that encode essential functions in a vast variety of viruses.

5. Co-evolve with cellular hosts in an extremely complex process that combines an incessant arms race with various forms of cooperation.

– (Koonin and Dolja 2013).”


“Most results indicate that chronic exposure to air pollutants delays/complicates recovery of patients of COVID-19 and leads to more severe and lethal forms of this disease. This deserves immediate and in-depth experimental investigations.”

As observed during the current Covid–19 pandemic, the elderly population are among those most affected by outdoor air pollution – and in particular regard to the respiratory system, making it a sensitive group (Environmental Research Vol 187, 2020).

(On the other hand), viruses are not alive and cannot be killed – only deactivated. Soap only dislodges the protein-coated viruses, such that cause the common cold. However, soap is sufficient in deactivating lipid-coated viruses like Covid-19. Water must be used along with the soap for about 20 seconds so that the virus is removed from the skin and washes down the drain. Soap and water are always preferable to hand sanitizers, which do not remove the viruses from the surface of the skin (askabiologist.asu.edu).