FILE - Smog Plateau, smog, Illinois, Chicago, skyline, 2015

FILE - In this March 19, 2015, file photo, a thick haze of smog looms over the skyline of Chicago. 

(The Center Square) – A recent analysis is shedding light on the connection between air pollution and COVID-19 related deaths in Illinois and the rest of the country.

The website QuoteWizard examined EPA emissions trends to examine pollution in states alongside the Centers for Disease Control’s most recent COVID-19 deaths to find correlation in mortality numbers. Senior Research Analyst Adam Johnson said Illinois was found to rank sixth most polluted and had the tenth highest rate of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people.

“Illinois kind of fits that profile that we are observing here is a highly polluted state and also correlating to a high rate of death per 100,000 people due to COVID-19,” Johnson said.

QuoteWizard said Texas, California and Florida were the biggest polluters and had among the highest number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000.

Dr. Mary Prunicki, a Stanford researcher, studies how toxic air can make people chronically ill. She has been monitoring a possible connection between the pandemic and polluted air. Prunicki recently commented on a Stanford Medicine podcast that polluted air leads to a long list of respiratory problems.

“Air pollution, in general, has been linked to higher rates of various diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, asthma and COPD, and these are the some of the same diseases that increase the risk of death in COVID-19 patients,” Prunicki said.

A study from the Harvard School of Health has the same message. The study looked at more than 3,000 counties across the country, comparing levels of particulate air pollution with coronavirus death counts for each area. Adjusting for factors like population size, weather, hospital beds, and behavioral variables such as obesity and smoking, the researchers found that a small increase in long-term exposure to air pollutants leads to a significant increase in the COVID-19 death rate.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.