The Vast Majority of Italian Covid-Positive Deaths Are in a Region Infamous for Air Pollution

The Vast Majority of Italian Covid-Positive Deaths Are in a Region Infamous for Air Pollution by Marko Marjanović for Anti-Empire

Viral infection + pre-existing lung damage is not a good combo. Death rates in the US are lagging far behind in comparison

US covid-positive deaths are lagging far behind Italian covid-positive deaths at the same number of detected cases:


At the same time the majority of Italian covid-positive deaths are concentrated in the Po Valley regions of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna:

So what do the two pieces of information say together? They say that over the same timescale a similar number of confirmed infections in Lombardy alone produced more deaths than the entire US.

How is that possible?

I’m sure there is more than one explanation, and it’s probably an interplay of a couple of reasons, but here is the most straightforward possibility:

What is Lombardy famous for and what do Lombardy and Wuhan have in common? Horrible air quality:

It is only the end of February, but air pollution in Milan has already exceeded the legal limit for 2019, and the Po Valley swims in a soupy smog.

“I can really feel when there’s smog, I suffer all winter long,” 45-year old Milan local Fabio Cigognini told AFP, describing the asthma-like symptoms which plague him during the cold months.

“We breathe in poison, but no one tells us anything,” he said.

Set against the mountains, far from the ocean and cleansing sea breezes, Italy’s major northern city and the Po Valley have always been at a disadvantage, climate-wise. But with air pollution at “alarming” rates – among the highest in Europe – local authorities have turned to a combination of tactics to help the city and the valley breath again.

“The Po Valley is very unhappily situated for atmospheric pollution in terms of climate and geography,” says Damiano Disimine, head scientist in the Lombardy for Italy’s environmentalist lobby Legambiente. “Wind is rare and there are frequent and prolonged episodes of climatic inversion. This means that the air is colder in the plains than in the mountains, and is still,” he said.

“On a European scale, the air pollution level is comparable only to southern Poland, where there is a coal industry and frightening sources of pollution”.

Actually, in the last 15 years, Lombardy has cleaned up its act somewhat but if you’re 65 years old for example that isn’t a huge consolation. Over the decades’ damage would have already built up.

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