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Green and less polluted cities curbed covid-19 infections

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The number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths from covid-19 was lower in cities with more green areas and lower rates of air pollution, according to a study published in the journal “Environmental Research”.

The number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths from covid-19 was lower in cities with more green areas and a lower rate of air pollution, according to a study.

The Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine (SIMA) have co-directed a new international investigation that shows that there are fewer Covid-19 infections in cities with more green areas and low pollution.

The study, which has been published in the journal Environmental Research, reveals data collected from 10 Italian and 8 Spanish cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants, as reported by the university center in a statement.

The results obtained constitute “further proof that the environment directly and significantly affects our state of health ”.

Through the study of georeferenced data, researchers have analyzed the association between infections, hospitalizations or deaths from COVID-19 and the area of ​​green areas in the cities of Rome, Bologna, Catania, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Turin and Venice in Italy; and Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Malaga, Las Palmas and Bilbao in Spain.

Prisco Piscitelli, epidemiologist and vice president of SIMA, explains that this research shows how the impact of COVID has been less in those cities that have a greater extension of public parks and lower average annual concentrations of PM2.5.

In reference to the Spanish data for 2021, each increase of 1 km 2 of urban green areas per 100,000 inhabitants corresponds to about seven fewer infections among the population, as well as one hospitalization and 35 deaths avoided. The effect of air pollution is even more significant since for every increase of 1 µg/m³ of PM2.5 per 100,000 inhabitants, there are 22 additional infections, as well as 1 hospitalization and up to 243 preventable deaths. “This is one more confirmation of the link between the severity of the pandemic and environmental factors ”, highlights Alessandro Miani, president of SIMA.

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For the research, as explained by Andrea Falco, professor of Statistics in Madrid and SIMA Delegate for Spain, two different methodologies have been applied: “For Spanish institutional data related to infections/hospitalizations / deaths, and the extension of public green areas, a bottom-up approach has been used. For Italy, a top-down approach was used, starting with official data on infections/hospitalizations/deaths for each province, and relating them to OECD statistics on the extent of public parks in the different areas.

For the statistical analyses, linear models and multivariate analyzes have been used, including PM2.5 (average annual concentrations from official air quality control stations), taking into account the different number of inhabitants in each province”.

Once again, the results obtained reveal a clear statistically significant association for both countries between the trend of the pandemic and the extent of green areas, such as the average annual concentrations of PM2.5.

“The accumulation of evidence in this regard should be taken into account by decision-makers because it shows that increasing green surfaces and reducing the load of air pollutants represents a strategy that can make a substantial difference, in terms of public health, against current and future threats to human health”, concludes Javier Arias, Dean of the UCM Faculty of Medicine.

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