Long-Term Air Pollution Exposure and COVID-19 Mortality: A Patient-Level Analysis from New York City

Anne Bozack, Stanley Pierre, Nicholas DeFelice, Elena Colicino, Darby Jack, Steven N. Chillrud, Andrew Rundle, Alfred Astua, James W. Quinn, Laura McGuinn, Qiang Yang, Keely Johnson, Joseph Masci, Laureen Lukban, Duncan Maru, Alison G. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Rationale: Risk factors for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mortality may include environmental exposures such as air pollution. Objectives: To determine whether, among adults hospitalized with PCR-confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), long-term air pollution exposure is associated with the risk of mortality, ICU admission, or intubation. Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of SARS-CoV-2 PCR-positive patients admitted to seven New York City hospitals from March 8, 2020, to August 30, 2020. The primary outcome was mortality; secondary outcomes were ICU admission and intubation. We estimated the annual average fine particulate matter (particulate matter <2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter [PM2.5]), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and black carbon (BC) concentrations at patients' residential address. We employed double robust Poisson regression to analyze associations between the annual average PM2.5, NO2, and BC exposure level and COVID-19 outcomes, adjusting for age, sex, race or ethnicity, hospital, insurance, and the time from the onset of the pandemic. Results: Among the 6,542 patients, 41% were female and the median age was 65 (interquartile range, 53-77) years. Over 50% self-identified as a person of color (n = 1,687 [26%] Hispanic patients; n = 1,659 [25%] Black patients). Air pollution exposure levels were generally low. Overall, 31% (n = 2,044) of the cohort died, 19% (n = 1,237) were admitted to the ICU, and 16% (n = 1,051) were intubated. In multivariable models, a higher level of long-term exposure to PM2.5 was associated with an increased risk of mortality (risk ratio, 1.11 [95% confidence interval, 1.02-1.21] per 1-μg/m3 increase in PM2.5) and ICU admission (risk ratio, 1.13 [95% confidence interval, 1.00-1.28] per 1-μg/m3 increase in PM2.5). In multivariable models, neither NO2 nor BC exposure was associated with COVID-19 mortality, ICU admission, or intubation. Conclusions: Among patients hospitalized with COVID-19, a higher long-term PM2.5 exposure level was associated with an increased risk of mortality and ICU admission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-662
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2022


  • COVID-19 ICU admission
  • COVID-19 mortality
  • air pollution exposure
  • race- or ethnicity-specific effects


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