Impact of Air Quality and the Built Environment on Vitamin D Status: Investigating modifiable risk factors for COVID-19

  • Mehrdad Borna (SA+C) 
  • Rosa Schiano-Phan (SA+C) 
  • Maria Woloshynowych (Social Sciences) 
  • Emanuela Volpi (Life Sciences) 
  • Moonisah Usman (CETI)

Borna, M., Woloshynowych, M., Schiano-Phan, R., Volpi, E.V. and Usman, M. (2022). A correlational analysis of COVID-19 incidence and mortality and urban determinants of vitamin D status across the London boroughs. Scientific Reports, 12(1). pp.1-11

AMONG MULTIPLE FACTORS, latest studies suggest vitamin D deficiency and pre-existing health conditions to be major contributors to death from COVID-19. Vitamin D is an anti-inflammatory hormone synthesised upon exposure to the sun. It is known that the physical configuration of the built environment can impact sun exposure and consequently, vitamin D levels. Furthermore, long-term exposure to air pollution can play an independent role in vitamin D deficiency as there is evidence to suggest air pollution may interfere with sunlight reaching the earth. Currently, over half of the world’s population live in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to grow by 2.5 billion by 2050. It has also been reported that approximately half of the global population have insufficient vitamin D levels.

Our multidisciplinary research, funded by the Sustainable Cities and the Urban Environment Research Community, responds to the need for increased capability of our cities to prevent disease and optimise health. The aim of our research is to explore the link between urban form configuration, air quality and vitamin D status across multiple urban scales. So far, we have conducted a correlational analysis of urban form and air quality in relation to the demographics and COVID-19 cases and mortality rate across 32 London boroughs. We found deaths from COVID-19 to be negatively correlated with mean percentage of households with access to total open space and positively correlated with total road length and four-year average PM10 μgm-3. Our findings link COVID-19 prevalence and mortality across London with aspects of the built environment and air quality linked to vitamin D deficiency.

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