Research seminar focused on COVID-19 health outcomes and ambient air pollution

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June 30, 2022

Please Join CARB for a Research Seminar

Ambient Air Pollution and COVID-19 Health Outcomes: A Statewide Study and A Southern California Study

CARB will be holding a research seminar on how ambient air pollution is related to COVID-19 illness, including infection, disease progression, and deaths. This seminar will cover results from two studies – one looking statewide and one focused on a Southern California cohort.

The statewide study examined risks of COVID-19 infections and deaths associated with PM2.5 exposure. The study used PM2.5 exposure data at the census block group-level, matched to statewide COVID-19 data. The results indicate that PM2.5 pollution is associated with significant increases in risk for COVID-19 infections and deaths.

The Southern California study used individual level data to estimate whether air pollution exposures led to worse COVID-19 outcomes. The results show significant increases in COVID-19 deaths in relation to PM2.5 and other pollutants. Moreover, PM2.5 exposure was found to have a significant effect on the severity of illness. The Southern California study also evaluated the relationship between PM2.5 and COVID-19 mortality risk by race/ethnicity and found differences in risk among racial/ethnic groups.

These studies provide a deeper understanding of the relationship between air pollution and COVID-19 infections and death. They inform CARB’s future health analyses and provide important information on the critical role of air quality standards in protecting public health.

Date:                 Thursday, July 14, 2022
Time:                 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location:           Webinar



The COVID-19 pandemic represents one of the largest threats to population health in more than a century. A number of studies in the U.S. and globally have found a link between ambient air pollution and COVID-19 outcomes. The U.S. has the most reported COVID-19 infections and deaths in the world, and California has the most infections and deaths of any state in the U.S. In some areas of California there are counties with the highest levels of air pollution in the U.S. Therefore, it is important for Californians to understand the impact of air pollution on COVID-19 health outcomes. In particular, it is critical to understand the risks and impacts of COVID-19 with air pollution exposure for low-income communities and communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by air pollution.

CARB contracted two research projects- a statewide study and a Southern California study. The statewide study used an ecological design to examine risks of COVID-19 infections and deaths associated with specific increments of PM2.5 exposure at the census block group-level. The study also reviewed PM2.5 exposure data compared to COVID-19 incidence data to find out whether highly impacted communities were more likely to have higher percentages of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

The Southern California study examined whether air pollution exposures led to worse outcomes in COVID-19 cases using sophisticated exposure estimates for multiple pollutants and more detailed information on individual-level data from the Kaiser Permanente Southern California healthcare system. The study also looked at the effect of PM2.5 on the risk of death from COVID-19 by race/ethnicity and looked at PM2.5 risks on the progression of the illness.

The results of both studies provide a better understanding of the increased risks posed by higher air pollution exposure, PM2.5 in particular, on COVID-19 infections, deaths, and the progression of the illness.


The principal investigator for the statewide study, Peggy Reynolds, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Reynolds is an epidemiologist with research interests focused on environmental risk factors for cancer. Her research program has incorporated geographic information system tools and studies of biomarkers of exposure and effect to assess risk relationships for children and adults. She has a history of community-based participatory research partnerships to examine a number of factors of public concern for cancer and other diseases in women.

The principal investigator for the Sothern California study, Michael Jerrett, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Michael Jerrett is an internationally recognized expert in Geographic Information Science for Exposure Assessment and Spatial Epidemiology. For the past 22 years, Dr. Jerrett has researched how to characterize population exposures to air pollution and built environmental variables, how to understand the social distribution of these exposures among different groups, and how to assess the health effects from environmental exposures. Over the last decade, Dr. Jerrett has also studied the contribution of the built and natural environment to physical activity, obesity, and several health outcomes.

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