Global COVID19 pandemic has been a fallout of the number of factors out of which some are controllable while some cannot be controlled immediately. The scientific community has shown that air pollution is one such factors having some connection with COVID19. The present state of lockdown in a reasonable portion of the world has led to a significant reduction in air pollution, but poor households depending on biomass fuel appear to be vulnerable due to its smoke. Even the low-income group community having no recurring source of income in the lockdown is unable to afford the clean modes of cooking food and are resorting to biomass fuel. Statistics show that around 2.6 billion people in the world are using solid biomass, coal, or kerosene as the primary cooking fuel. Out of these numbers, around 1.7 billion people are from Asia.
Further, the lockdown has prohibited the movement out of the houses. In the case of poor habitats with inadequate ventilation, along with the pollution from cooking the smokers are also contributing to the smoke pollution. World Health Organization in its guideline of 24th March 2020 has categorically stated that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to the possible transmission from fingers to mouth in holding a cigarette, the likelihood of lung disease, and reduced lung capacity, increased oxygen requirement of the body, etc.
In fact, air pollution in whatsoever form increases oxidative stress and reduces the ability of macrophages to inactivate viruses. The macrophage is a phagocyte cell in the body responsible for engulfing and destroying pathogens and other small cells.
Therefore, those living with air pollution may be more prone to get infected with respiratory diseases. Present conditions of the lockdown require the consciousness in people to look for proper ventilation in their household in the given limitations. The use of cleaner fuel for cooking is the function of the economic condition and needs public support to provide cleaner cooking modes or focus on community cooking or community kitchen while maintaining physical distancing.
Concerted efforts are required for reducing air pollution for improving the respiratory health of people in general which may also reduce the vulnerability of COVID-19.
Source: www.who.int,www.wiea.org, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2020.109586
About the author
An electronics engineer by profession, pursuing M.A. in political science from IGNOU, Delhi, and having wide-ranging interests in the contemporary social, economic, administrative and political issues of India.