Even under ‘normal’ circumstances, poor air quality will kill more than 4 million people prematurely around the world. Now, the global COVID-19 pandemic could be making the public health burdens in struggling communities even worse.
Polluting factories like petrochemical facilities and power plants are mostly located in disadvantaged areas, including lower income communities and communities of color. As a result, vulnerable people are suffering right now from poor air quality. In the U.S., for example, African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than non-Hispanic whites.
Existing Air Pollution Could Make COVID-19 Even More Deadly
Recent articles from the Washington Post and Gizmodo have highlighted how air pollution could make people more likely to become seriously ill during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by a new strain of coronavirus, has infected over 350,000 people globally and led to thousands of deaths. Millions more everyday people in this country are making huge sacrifices to fight the pandemic. But the most vulnerable populations, like the elderly and those already suffering with chronic illnesses — including cardiovascular disease, lung disease and diabetes — are at increased risk of acquiring high-risk COVID-19; these are the same groups of people already disproportionately impacted by fossil fueled-air pollution.
Food & Water Watch has been sounding the alarm on air quality issues for years; the rapid spread of coronavirus makes our work — and our warnings — more urgent. Air pollution has been linked to heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections, all conditions that can increase a person’s risk to COVID-19. As explained in the Washington Post, “experts note that damage to the lungs from pollutants that result from combustion … may increase the risk of respiratory tract infections from viruses such as the novel coronavirus. Poor air can also cause lung inflammation that could worsen the symptoms of covid-19."
This Crisis Makes It Clear that We Must Get Off Fossil Fuels
- Fracking-related air quality degradation has resulted in anywhere from 1,200 to 4,600 deaths in just over a decade.
- Fossil fueled power plants have been linked to increased hospitalization rates for respiratory illnesses.
- Petrochemical plants release dangerous ozone-forming pollutants that can also result in a slew of respiratory problems.
The elevated risk that pollution may pose to people stricken by the coronavirus highlights one of many reasons to tackle the fossil fuel industry. Rather than bailing the industry out, we should ban fracking and stop the buildout of polluting infrastructure that props up the oil and gas industry.
Banning Fracking May Help Protect People From Worsened Effects Of Coronavirus
We can take immediate steps to fix this situation. First, let’s oppose Trump’s bailout for frackers and oil and gas billionaires. Second, let’s get serious now about transitioning off of fossil fuels. We have the technology and battery storage capabilities to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. We need to keep building the movement until we have enough political power to get it done.
Will you sign to support the Fracking Ban Act right now?