Vulnerability and burden of all-cause mortality associated with particulate air pollution during COVID-19 pandemic: A nationwide observed study in Italy

Tingting Ye, Rongbin Xu, Wenhua Yu, Zhaoyue Chen, Yuming Guo, Shanshan Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Limited evidence is available on the health effects of particulate matter (PM including PM2.5 with an aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm; PM10, ≤ 10 μm; PM2.5–10, 2.5–10 μm) during the pandemic of COVID-19 in Italy. The aims of the study were to examine the associations between all-cause mortality and PM in the pandemic period and compare them to the normal periods (2015– 2019). Methods: We collected daily data regarding all-cause mortality (stratified by age and gender), and PM concentrations for 107 Italian provinces from 1 January 2015 to 31 May 2020. A time-strati-fied case-cross design with the distributed lag non-linear model was used to examine the association between PM and all-cause mortality. We also compared the counts and fractions of death attributable to PM in two periods. Results: Italy saw an increase in daily death counts while slight decreases in PM concentrations in pandemic period. Each 10 μg/m3 increase in PM was associated with much higher increase in daily all-cause mortality during the pandemic period compared to the same months during 2015–2019 (increased mortality rate: 7.24% (95%CI: 4.84%, 9.70%) versus 1.69% (95%CI: 1.12%, 2.25%) for PM2.5; 3.45% (95%CI: 2.58%, 4.34%) versus 1.11% (95%CI: 0.79%, 1.42%) for PM10; 4.25% (95%CI: 2.99%, 5.52%) versus 1.76% (95%CI: 1.14%, 2.38%) for PM2.5–10). The counts and fractions of deaths attributable to PM were higher in 2020 for PM2.5 (attributable death counts: 20,062 versus 3927 per year in 2015–2019; attributable fractions: 10.2% versus 2.4%), PM10 (15,112 versus 3999; 7.7% versus 2.5%), and PM2.5–10 (7193 versus 2303; 3.7% versus 1.4%). Conclusion: COVID-19 pandemic increased the vulnerability and excess cases of all-cause mortality associated with short-term exposure to PM2.5, PM2.5–10, and PM10 in Italy, despite a decline in air pollution level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • All-cause mortality
  • COVID-19
  • Italy
  • Particulate matter

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