Oil prices have never been so low due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has reduced demand for gas, diesel, and other petroleum products to a point producers are almost paying clients to take it just to avoid storing it. It is a world without oil. Sadly, the pollution remained around, and that may be a cause for more deaths in some places, according to a new study.

Think about it: What do New York, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, London, and Paris have in common? Apart from high death rates related to the novel coronavirus, they are also full of people and air pollution. Although most are concerned about carbon emissions, nitrogen oxides (NOx) should be the target, especially nitrogen dioxide (NO2). They are associated with respiratory problems and were the core issue with Dieselgate.

Yaron Ogen, from the Institute of Geosciences and Geography at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), decided to investigate this. He saw a strong correlation between NO2 levels and the severity of COVID-19 infection in some places. To check that, he combined satellite data on air pollution and air currents with confirmed deaths related to the disease.

Gallery: Nitrogen Dioxide Could Have A Major Role In COVID-19 Deaths

The data came from measurements made by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Sentinel 5P satellite combined and from the US weather agency NOAA info on vertical airflows. The Sentinel 5P monitors air quality all around the globe. He went for January and February data – before the outbreak started in Europe.

What the geoscientist discovered was that regions that have high levels of nitrogen oxides have significantly more deaths than other areas. 

"When we look at Northern Italy, the area around Madrid, and Hubei Provence in China, for example, they all have something in common: they are surrounded by mountains. This makes it even more likely that the air in these regions is stable and pollution levels are higher."

Nitrogen Dioxide Could Have A Major Role In COVID-19 Deaths

Ogen believes that the high level of pollution in these areas may have led to lung damages that made residents more vulnerable to the disease.

Although what his paper points out is just a correlation, it may stimulate more scientists to investigate if the correlation really points to a cause or at least a worsening factor, capable of leading to more deaths.

If that is confirmed, we will see that electric cars do not have only a therapeutic effect on the environment. In what relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, they could also have been welcome prophylaxis.

Source: EurekAlert!

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