Op-ed Article

Improve Hong Kong’s air quality to reduce the risk of long Covid (Issue Date: 27 March, 2023)

Exposure to outdoor air pollution has long been linked to negative respiratory health effects, including worsening asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution leads to 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide annually.

Recent studies have also suggested a relationship between air pollution and long-term effects of Covid-19, otherwise known as long Covid. Long Covid is a condition where recovered Covid-19 patients continue to experience symptoms for weeks or months. These symptoms range from fatigue and headaches to shortness of breath and even cognitive issues.

Although the exact cause of long Covid is still unknown, researchers have begun examining a variety of factors that might contribute to its development, including ambient air pollution.

High levels of air pollution were found to increase the risk of post-Covid symptoms in young adults, according to a study in The Lancet. The study surveyed 753 young adults who had contracted Covid-19 and found that long-term exposure to very fine PM2.5 particles increased the likelihood of long Covid symptoms.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, it has never been more important to address the issue of air pollution, particularly in densely populated urban areas like Hong Kong. Governments, businesses and individuals all have a role to play in reducing air pollution levels.

Strategies include reducing traffic and transitioning to renewable energy, as well as making small changes in daily activities to decrease energy consumption and avoid high-polluting products.

Furthermore, individuals can take steps to protect their own health by reducing their exposure to air pollution. This might include wearing a mask when in outdoor areas with high pollution levels, using air purifiers at home, and avoiding strenuous outdoor activities during times of low air quality.

Overall, evidence suggests that exposure to ambient air pollution is linked to increased risk of long Covid, as well as worsening the severity of Covid-19 in general. Addressing this issue and reducing pollution levels will be crucial to protecting public health and promoting a sustainable future.

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