Study: Over 1 in 4 Coronavirus Deaths in China Linked to Pollution

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 13: A Chinese man wears a protective mask as he stands near the CCTV building in fog and pollution during rush hour in the central business district on February 13, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of the deadly new coronavirus COVID-19 rose to …
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

A study published in the journal Cardiovascular Research Tuesday found that potentially millions of deaths of Chinese coronavirus patients may be linked to air pollution weakening the local population’s lungs.

In China, the scientists found that long-term exposure to air pollution contributed to 27 percent of known coronavirus deaths. In comparison, the study attributed 15 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths in part to pollution. That number in the United States was 18 percent, though higher in more developed areas such as the Northeast (25 percent).

China is the world’s worst polluter, emitting more dangerous carbon pollution than any country and nearly double the pollution of the second-largest emitter, America. Illegal Chinese colonization activities in the South China Sea, destructive rare-earth mineral mining, and construction tied to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also fuel the Chinese Communist Party’s assault on the environment.

The Chinese coronavirus originated in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, in late 2019. The Communist Party initially kept reports of an outbreak of an unknown respiratory disease in the city a secret, then claimed falsely that the virus was not transmissible from person to person. One study found that China could have prevented 95 percent of cases in its borders if it had not silenced doctors warning of contagious disease or otherwise hid key health information from the public.

The authors of the study released on Tuesday conclude that living in a highly polluted area acts, in some ways, as a pre-existing medical condition that could exacerbate the damage done by the virus. They noted that their study does not indicate a “direct cause-effect relationship” between coronavirus deaths and pollution but, rather, “it refers to relationships between two, direct and indirect, i.e. by aggravating co-morbidities [other health conditions] that could lead to fatal health outcomes of the virus infection.”

“If both long-term exposure to air pollution and infection with the COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] come together then we have an additive adverse effect on health, particularly with respect to the heart and blood vessels, which leads to greater vulnerability and less resilience to COVID-19,” one of the authors of the study, Thomas Münzel of Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg University, said. “If you already have heart disease, then air pollution and coronavirus infection will cause trouble that can lead to heart attacks, heart failure and stroke.”

The European authors largely hail from German academic and research institutions.

The study found that the nation with the highest number of coronavirus deaths attributable to pollution was the Czech Republic, at 29 percent. Poland took second place with 28 percent of deaths attributable to pollution – considering all anthropogenic emissions, not just fossil fuel pollution – followed by China at 27 percent. The study identified six countries where the coronavirus-related deaths could not be attributed to pollution at all; all are Pacific Island states except for Grenada and the Maldives.

“The degree to which air pollution influences [Chinese coronavirus] mortality was derived from epidemiological data in the USA and China,” the study’s abstract noted.

The number of deaths attributable in part to air pollution may may much higher given the lack of global trust in China’s coronavirus data. Significant evidence indicates that China has deliberately manipulated its coronavirus statistics to appear to have endured a smaller outbreak than it did in reality – and to appear that it had brought the pandemic under control faster than any other country. At press time, China claims to have documented 91,224 cases of Chinese coronavirus nationwide cumulatively; of those, the Chinese Communist Party alleges less than 5,000 people died.

At the height of the pandemic in its origin place, Wuhan, reports from inside the city indicated so many deaths in the hospitals that local funeral homes were struggling to keep up with the dead, incinerating as many as possible. Tallies local journalists compiled of the number of dead processed in Wuhan’s funeral homes suggested that as many as ten times more people died of coronavirus in the early months of 2020 there than what the government claimed. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) concluded in a report published in April that the true number of coronavirus cases in China was about 2.9 million, not the 82,000 documented at the time.

Chinese state media admitted as early as February that local Communist Party officials were documenting outrageously fraudulent numbers of coronavirus cases in their communities. In one case, the city of Jingmen claimed that it had documented -107 coronavirus cases in one report to superiors. Jingmen was among five cities state media admitted had documented negative numbers of coronavirus patients.

China’s cheating on coronavirus documentation outraged even its geopolitical allies.

“It seems statistics from China was a bitter joke because many in the world thought this is just like influenza, with fewer deaths. This [impression] were based on reports from China and now it seems China made a bitter joke with the rest of the world,” Kianush Jahanpur, a spokesman for Iran’s Health Ministry, lamented in April.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.