Do particulates carry viruses?

The answer is possibly, and the Country should carry out further research. Professor Setti et al at Bolognia University have carried out a review and produced a paper “Evaluation of the potential relationship between Particulate Matter (PM) pollution and COVID-19 infection spread in Italy”[i]. They state that it is known that PM fractions (e.g., PM2.5 and PM10) serve as carriers for several chemical and biologic pollutants, viruses included. Viruses may be adsorbed through coagulation onto particulate matter composed by solid and/or liquid particles, whose lifetime in the atmosphere is hours, days or weeks. Setti and his team cite that according to researchers Chen et al., [2010] ambient influenza and highly pathogenic avian influenza virus may be subjected to long-range transport due to Saharan dust[ii]. Chen et al demonstrated that the concentration of ambient influenza A virus was significantly higher during the Asian dust days than during the background days.

What is perhaps clearer is that people who live in an atmosphere that is polluted with particulate matter are notably more vulnerable to viral infections than people who live in an atmosphere less polluted with particulates. Setti’s research shows a direct correlation between higher instances of Covid-19 in various provinces in Italy and the density of particulate matter.

In his conclusion Setti states that:

“In conclusion, the rapid COVID-19 infection spread observed in selected regions of Northern Italy is indicated to be related to PM10 pollution due to airborne particles able to serve as carriers of pathogens. As already highlighted in previous studies, it is recommended to take into account the PM10 contribution and to make policymakers aware of the need to take direct action for pollution control.”

Greenpeace Italy via their director Giuseppe Onufrio have produced a report “Air pollution and pandemic from Covid-19: what relationship is there?”[iii] In this report Greenpeace state that:

“The first aspect relates to the hypothesis that fine particulate matter acts as a ” carrier ” in transporting the virus that would coagulate on the surface of the particles (which have a diameter at least a dozen times larger than that of the virus) over a longer distance . This hypothesis, already advanced in the literature for some time on specific cases, would imply that the spread of the virus is facilitated not by smog in general but by fine particulates . And therefore, this effect would add to the transmission of the infection as a note (from individual to individual).”

Greenpeace then go on:

“A ” position paper ” presented by Prof Leonardo Setti of the University of Bologna and others, has advanced a correlation between the exceedances of the limits for PM10 in the control units of some cities and the number of admissions from Covid-19. This is a correlation based on a very limited number of observations, and therefore a hypothesis to be verified, but the underlying phenomenon – fine particulate matter as a carrier for other pollutants – is certainly known and proven for other polluting factors (such as for PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).”

On the basis of the exercise of the precautionary principle, perhaps we should ask the Department for Transport what research they have done on this and what assurances of our well being can they give on this topic? Below are the illustrations from the research paper of Kings College London produced in January 2020 on particulates from Heathrow blowing over London, about which we have produced a previous article

[i] http://www.simaonlus.it/wpsima/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID_19_position-paper_ENG.pdf

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2944079/

[iii] https://www.greenpeace.org/italy/storia/7135/inquinamento-dellaria-e-pandemia-da-covid-19-che-relazione-ce/

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