Teenage air pollution activist's 'sorrow' at study which says high pollution areas could be seeing more COVID-19 deaths
A teenage air pollution activist has described his 'sorrow' after research revealed that people who are exposed to higher levels of air pollution are more at risk from COVID-19.
A preliminary study by scientists at the University of Cambridge showed that areas recording the most deaths from COVID-19, London, the Midlands and the North West, also recorded the highest levels of Nitrogen Oxide (NOX) from air pollution.
Tom Hunt, 14, and his Labrador Baggy broke new ground earlier this year, when Tom strapped an air pollution monitor onto Baggy's collar and started recording her readings around their hometown of Chesham.
The monitor found that Baggy's readings were higher because she was lower down, and that air pollution is far worse at child height than at adult level.
Tom is now using the lockdown to write an 'air pollution survival guide' giving families information and advice on how to keep the air in their homes as clean as possible, and protect lungs during the pandemic.
Commenting on the research Tom said: "Sorrow is the only word to describe it.
"This preliminary research shows that air pollution, and the lung damage that it causes is affect people's changes of surviving the virus. That made me really really sad.
"People don't realise that the things they do in their homes can also affect their lung health.
"It shouldn't take a massive pandemic to improve the air quality, we should have been doing things before. And I hope that this will make the Government take this issue more seriously when things get back to normal.
"If this research proves to be right people have died because their lungs were weakened by air pollution. And that is so shameful."
Before the lockdown Tom and Baggy's campaign was going strong, and the pair had recently appeared at Crufts, and on BBC Newsround to spread their message.
But Tom believes that even though the lockdown has meant outside air pollution has improved, huge changes need to be made when the pandemic is over to ensure we do not make the same mistakes again.
He said: "People tend to think that air pollution is all about car fumes and things like that, but things like talc, deodorant and the cleaning products we use can also do damage."
Tom's book, the Indoor Air Pollution Survival Guide will be released soon.