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  • Writer's pictureDr Gi Ming Chan

The Environment & COVID-19

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to spread, it has become extremely important for one to take all measures to prevent the infection.

The infection has been found to be more severe in patients with a pre-existing chronic condition such as asthma, COPD and other lung conditions, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease and other immunocompromised conditions.

While there are many factors for an increased risk of the COVID-19 infection, one interesting factor is the increased risk that comes from toxins in the environment. Such toxins may come from air pollution, plastic, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), etc.

Endocrine disruptors includes synthetic chemicals used as industrial solvents/lubricants and their byproducts [polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), dioxins], plastics [bisphenol A (BPA)], plasticizers (phthalates), pesticides [methoxychlor, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)], fungicides (vinclozolin), and pharmaceutical agents [diethylstilbestrol (DES)].

Such chemicals can act on certain organs, especially the lungs, by acting on the immune system and disrupting hormones. As a result, endocrine disruptors can lead to abnormally more exaggerated inflammatory systemic immune responses and higher concentrations of cytokines during COVID-19 illness.. Endocrine disruptors also interfere with the metabolism of sex steroids that affect and modulate immune function.

Air pollution has been linked to higher COVID-19 death rates. People who are exposed to a fine particulate (PM2.5) from high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from the disease than people who are less exposed. Such air pollution is likely to come from cars, power plants and refineries. Air pollution is likely to cause inflammation and increase free radicals in the body.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is a class of chemicals used to make products non-stick, waterproof, and stain-resistant. They're used in rain jackets, stain-resistant carpets, upholstery, cookware, fast food packaging, dental floss, and others. They can also be found in contaminated water and soil. PFAs have been found to decrease the immune system’s ability to fight infections.

Proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are very important to maintain a healthy immune system such as eating organic fruits and vegetables, drink clean water, avoiding the use of plastic and being exposed to air pollution, getting adequate sleep and exercising.


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