Environmental Pollution and COVID

Authors: Joseph R Oppong*, University of North Texas, Jonathan D. Mayer, University of Washington, Seattle WA
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: COVID, Environmental Pollution, Vulnerability, Minorities, Exposure
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 7
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Although the devastation of COVID-19 is worldwide, its severity varies between and within countries in ways that are not completely understood. Even within countries, the severity of morbidity and mortality varies between race/ethnic groups, majority/minority populations and even by place of residence. Some researchers emphasize the role of environmental pollution as an important precursor to COVID mortality, while others underscore the importance of individual factors and emphasize occupational exposures and underlying comorbidities such as obesity, hypertension and obesity. Yet, all these individual attributes may be simple manifestations of the underlying vulnerabilities.

We argue that COVID-19 simply reveals spatial and demographic differences in vulnerability to disease. Rather than environmental pollution or race/ethnicity being causal for COVID-19 infection and deaths, it reveals disparities in vulnerability to disease. The areas with high air pollution are the same areas occupied by the vulnerable populations – minority (predominantly Black), low income, high rates of obese/overweight, working in jobs that increase exposure, with poor access to health care/insurance. COVID-19 is simply exploiting the inherent health vulnerabilities and a vulnerability framework provides a more plausible explanation than single variables such as environmental pollution or even race/ethnicity.

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