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Experimental studies would assert the possibility that PM10 may act as a “carrier” for the spreading of the viral infection of COVID-19.

Experimental studies would assert the possibility that particulate matter may act as a “carrier” for the spreading of the viral infection of COVID-19.

This means that the virus could be carried over longer distances by fine particles suspended in the air and could remain viable for hours, days or even weeks in tiny particles. So, air pollution particles could help coronavirus travel further in the air, increasing the number of people infected.

In Northern Italy the lockdown didn’t produce a considerable reduction of particulate matter, because particulate matter is obtained in large quantity also by intensive livestock farms, besides factories and cars. So, even if during lockdown factories were closed and cars didn’t circulate, particulate matter concentration levels in Lombardy (Italy) remained high in any case, due to intensive livestock farms located in its territory that continued to produce manure, and therefore pollutants in the air, and among others, particulate matter.

Scientists and reserchers suggest that higher levels of particle pollution could explain higher rates of infection in parts of Northern Italy.

A few weeks ago I watched an Italian TV programme called “Report”. It is an investigative programme broadcast on channel three (RAI 3) by the Italian television.

An interesting piece caught my attention…It was about pollution and in particular about a type of pollution caused by intensive animal farming. (Click here to see the corresponding part: from minute 27:25 to minute 56:00).

Intensive livestock refers to a system of farming in which large numbers of animals (such as cows, pigs, turkeys or chickens) are kept together into relatively small spaces. The aim is to produce large quantities of meat, eggs, or milk at the lowest possible cost. They are also known as “factory farms”.

Animals raised on overcrowded and factory-style farms generate a large quantity of animal waste, like urine and manure. Manure is generally stored in huge, open-air ponds, often as big as several football fields, which are prone to leaks and spills, polluting soil and contaminating water supplies. Animal waste also emits harmful gases into the atmosphere (such as ammonia, endotoxins, hydrogen sulfide and methane) and releases large amounts of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5; PM10 is the acronym for “particulate matter with diameter ≤ 10 µm”, PM2.5 is the acronym for “particulate matter with diameter ≤ 2.5 µm”), creating environmental problems. Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems.

When the cesspools reach their capacity, farmers spray the untreated manure onto surrounding fields as fertilizer, and that bring still more of these harmful substances into air.

Untreated waste pollutes the air with odors (the stench can be unbearable) and creates health problems, markedly decreasing the quality of life of workers, people nearby and neighboring communities and property values. Studies have shown that people who live near intensive livestock farms have a much greater risk of developing respiratory problems, such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.

In Italy most intensive livestock farms are located in the North of the country. Lombardy is one of the regions with the highest concentration of intensive livestock farms; consequently the quantity of excrement and animal waste produced in livestock facilities is very high and that generates large amounts of gases and particulate matter.

It should be noted that, in Lombardy 85% of ammonia dispersed in the atmosphere is produced by manure: it would seem that farms pollute in the same way as cars.”

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