Headline: Air quality in Germany as a contributing factor to morbidity from COVID-19


The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been spreading in Germany since January 2020, with regional differences in incidence, morbidity, and mortality. Long-term exposure to air pollutants as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen monoxide (NO), ozone (O3), and particulate matter (<10 μm PM10, <2.5 μm PM2.5) has a negative impact on respiratory functions. We analyze the association between long-term air pollution and the outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infections in Germany.


We conducted an observational study in Germany on county-level, investigating the association between long-term (2010–2019) air pollutant exposure (European Environment Agency, AirBase data set) and COVID-19 incidence, morbidity, and mortality rate during the first outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 (open source data Robert Koch Institute). We used negative binominal models, including adjustment for risk factors (age, sex, days since first COVID-19 case, population density, socio-economic and health parameters).


After adjustment for risk factors in the tri-pollutant model (NO2, O3, PM2.5) an increase of 1 μg/m³ NO2 was associated with an increase of the need for intensive care due to COVID-19 by 4.2% (95% CI 1.011–1.074), and mechanical ventilation by 4.6% (95% CI 1.010–1.084). A tendency towards an association of NO2 with COVID-19 incidence was indicated, as the results were just outside of the defined statistical significance (+1.6% (95% CI 1.000–1.032)). Long-term annual mean NO2 level ranged from 4.6 μg/m³ to 32 μg/m³.

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Koch, S., Hoffmann, C., Caseiro, A., Ledebur, M., Menk, M., & von Schneidemesser, E. (2022). Air quality in Germany as a contributing factor to morbidity from COVID-19. Environmental Research, 214(Part 2): 113896. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2022.113896.

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Climate Change and Air Pollution: Research Needs and Pathways to Policy Implementation