Report on the association between air pollution, COVID-19 and influenza published

The Institute of Epidemiology published a report on “Impact of air pollutants on viruses/virus infections – a systematic literature review and meta-analysis”.

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The report presents biological hypotheses how viral diseases of the respiratory tract might be linked to ambient air pollution exposure. Moreover, it gives a comprehensive overview of the literature on this topic published up to the end of October 2020, including the first COVID-19 wave. It addresses in detail methodological considerations for these publications such as study designs, adjustment for confounders, the choice of lags in short-term studies and the study quality.

The report, based on a systematic literature review and meta-analysis, includes more than 65.000.000 cases and 264.000 deaths from five continents. It provides a first quantitative assessment of the association between air pollution and COVID-19. In addition, the included literature was scanned for vulnerable populations. Finally, it offers recommendations for future studies on this topic.

The authors of the report were (Working Group “Exposomics”), (Working Group "Environmental Risks"), , Head of the Working Group “Environmental Risks” and , Director of the Institute of Epidemiology.

The report was funded by the European Climate Foundation (Grant Number G-2006-60636) and can be downloaded here.


As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus, allergies and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,300 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 19 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members. 

The Institute of Epidemiology (EPI) assesses genetic, environmental and lifestyle risk factors which jointly determine the occurrence of major chronic diseases. The focus is on the development and progression of metabolic, respiratory and allergic diseases, as well as heart diseases and mental health. The goal is to understand the molecular underpinning of disease better and to translate this knowledge into personalized approaches of prevention as well as polices to improve health. Research builds on the unique resources of the KORA cohort, the KORA myocardial infarction registry, and the KORA aerosol measurement station. Aging-related phenotypes have been added to the KORA research portfolio within the frame of the Research Consortium KORA-Age. Moreover, the institute makes use of the birth cohorts GINI and LISA. It plays a leading role in the planning and setting up of the German National Cohort and builds the NAKO biorepository.