New Study highlights the link between air pollution exposure and higher death rates from COVID 19

Beijing/Munich, — 20 April 2020 | News Release

Almost 3 billion people still rely on open fires or inefficient stoves to cook, filling their homes with harmful smoke and increasing their vulnerability to respiratory infections. People exposed to air pollution are more likely to die from COVID-19 than people living in areas with cleaner air, according to a new study by the Department of Biostatistics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA (USA). Though the study’s findings still need to be peer-reviewed and focus on the United States, they align with similar results from Italy.

As the Clean Cooking Alliance rightly points out in a recent Thomson Reuters Foundation commentary, this research is an ominous sign for many developing countries, where air pollution levels often far exceed World Health Organization guidelines. More worrying still, air quality inside people’s homes can be magnitudes worse than the air they breathe outside, due in large part to how people cook. It is well documented that household air pollution from cooking increases susceptibility to respiratory infections such as pneumonia and aggravates respiratory illnesses like asthma – which may, in turn, lead to poorer outcomes after a COVID-19 infection.

The new COVID-19 study shows, even a slight increase in air pollution in the years before the emergence of virus is associated with higher death rates. Clean cooking solutions are critical to reducing household air pollution and building people’s longstanding resilience to respiratory illnesses.

If these research findings are transferred to China, UPM’s Sichuan Household Biogas PoA plays an important role for strengthening the health of participating farmer families and becoming more robust against harmful COVID-19 effects.

As UPM’s Managing Director, Martin Dilger, puts it: “By having equipped nearly 400,000 poor rural households in China’s Sichuan province with biogas digesters and clean biogas cook stoves, UPM’s Sichuan Household Biogas PoA has promoted a wide-ranging fuel switch from dirty coal and firewood to clean biogas and has thus contributed verifiably to strongly reducing the level of indoor air pollution in the homes of our programme’s beneficiaries already for many years now. The COVID-19 pandemia reminds us once again, why it is so important to fight indoor air pollution globally.”

By investing in this PoA and purchasing its carbon credits, you can do your part to help funding this highly beneficial climate protection programme and to support the local farmer families in Sichuan. Your contacts at UPM for the Sichuan Household Biogas PoA and its GS CERs are:

Martin Dilger, Managing Director, UPM Germany
mdilger(at), T: +49 89 1222197 – 50

andGaiai Guo, Vice General Manager, UPM China
guog(at), T: +86 10 6468 0500