John D. Sutter is a CNN contributor and a National Geographic Explorer. He is director of the forthcoming BASELINE series, which is visiting four locations on the front lines of the climate crisis every five years until 2050. Visit the project’s website or follow him on Instagram. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN. (CNN)Pop quiz: Which of these could put you at increased risk during the Covid-19 pandemic?Not washing your handsGathering in large groupsAir pollutionThe answer: All of the above. No. 3 isn’t getting the attention it deserves, though. Air pollution, it turns out, is extremely bad for you — deadly, actually — all the time. But it’s especially dangerous in the middle of a global pandemic that attacks the lungs.A recent study, which is still awaiting peer review, from researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, estimates a 15% increased death rate from Covid-19 with a small increase — 1 microgram per cubic meter of air — in a type of air pollution called fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which is associated with burning fossil fuels and other material.These are particles tiny enough to penetrate deep into the lungs.


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