The risks of air pollution toxins
There is increasing concern that breathing in pollutants increases the risk of developing diseases, including Covid-19. However, data from existing studies is unable to provide clear answers to this question immediately. So, researchers want to find out more to further understand the risks of air pollution.
We’ve provided start-up funding for researchers at Queen Mary University of London to screen for the impact of the air pollution toxins. Toxins of the most concern will be tested on lab-grown human cells.
This funding forms part of a suite of seed grants we’ve provided. The aim is to help gain insight into the pathology and impact of a number of conditions affecting the health of East Londoners, including Covid-19.
"The importance of this work is that it aims to show that the association between exposure to increased fossil fuel pollution and increased vulnerability to COVID-19."Professor Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine
Investigating connection between air pollution and Covid-19
Project lead Professor Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, says:
“The importance of this work is that it aims to show that the association between exposure to increased fossil fuel pollution and increased vulnerability to Covid-19.”
Researchers already know that Covid-19 hijacks and infects cells which contain the enzyme ACE2. This study will look at whether different toxins from air pollution increase ACE2 cells on the surface of the lungs, allowing COVID-19 cells to take effect.
The study will, for the first time, screen a wide range of inhaled toxins such as particles from car exhausts and the London Underground, cigarette smoke and vape, to see if they increase susceptibility to Covid-19.
Researchers will also look at therapies which may reduce the amount of ACE2 and therefore reduce the effects of Covid-19, including nicotine, immune boosters, and antioxidants.
Professor Jonathan Grigg has his team have been instrumental in both investigating and reducing the impacts of air pollution in our East London community.
One study has found pollution particles in the placentas of East London mums-to-be. Results show that air pollution particles can move from the lungs to other organs, potentially reaching unborn babies. By showing for the first time that air pollution travels in the blood stream researchers to help influence policy makers to reduce road traffic emissions.
Whilst looking to reduce exposure to air pollution a UK-first air pollution clinic for children has been set up at The Royal London Hospital. This project is an opportunity to improve the health of children living in East London, an area that experiences high levels of pollution.
Further research is needed to continue to understand these findings, and the address the risks posed by air pollution in our breathed environment.
Supporting our community through research
Chief Executive of Barts Charity, Fiona Miller Smith, says:
“We’re extremely pleased to support Professor Grigg’s work. East London was badly hit during the first wave of the pandemic, with Newham in particular taking the brunt.
“We also know that some of our roads and neighbourhoods are among the most polluted in the country and so we are potentially facing something of a dual threat to public health.
“By making this investment we hope to stimulate understanding that will not only protect our local community but have a positive impact right across the country.”
You can donate to support ground-breaking research that could transform lives. What makes a difference in East London has the potential to touch lives across the world.