Read the full article by Leonardo Trasande and Akhgar Ghassabian (The Guardian)
“During the rare moments you’ve ventured outside these days, you’ve probably noticed clearer skies and the benefits of reductions in air pollution.
Long-term exposure to air pollution increases the danger associated with four of the biggest Covid-19 mortality risks: diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease and asthma. It also can make the immune system overreact, exaggerating the inflammatory response to common pathogens.
But there are other common contaminants in our homes that are also likely to be hacking our immune systems, which have had less attention.
You’ve probably heard about synthetic chemicals in non-stick pans, cosmetics and aluminum cans disrupting our hormones. The notion of endocrine-disrupting chemicals was only widely accepted about a decade ago, when scientific societies raised the alarm. The science of immune disruption is even newer, with a large review in a major scientific journal just out last year.
You may have heard of ‘forever chemicals’, or perfluoroalkylsubstances (PFAS) from the movie Dark Waters, with Mark Ruffalo. These chemicals, used to keep food from sticking to surfaces and our clothing free of oily stains, are widely found in the US water supply. We’re talking about chemicals that 110 million Americans drink each day that increase the death rate of mice exposed to influenza type A. Children exposed during pregnancy have worse immune responses to vaccines, with weaker antibody responses. Studies in Norway, Sweden and Japan have found greater difficulties in children with various infections, ranging from colds to stomach bugs to ear infections.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, which is found in thermal paper receipts and aluminum can linings, has been found in the laboratory to increase the body’s release of a molecule called interleukin-6, or IL-6, that may be involved in the raging wildfire inside the lung that has already killed so many from coronaviruses. One of the more promising treatments for coronavirus patients is tocilizumab, an antibody to IL-6. Phthalates, used in cosmetics, personal care products and food packaging, alter levels of cytokines, which are key players in the immune response to coronavirus.
Is the evidence perfect? Hardly. And we have to rely on observational studies – you can’t run a randomized controlled trial of potentially toxic mixtures of virus and chemical exposures. There are ethical and logistical challenges to running these kinds of studies. But absence of evidence doesn’t mean absence of harm…”