Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and people started thinking more about their respiratory health at any sign of a tickle or cough, many probably took for granted the simple act of breathing. Michael Petroni ’12 is not one of those people.
“The air we breathe is important. We breathe 20,000 times a day or so,” he says.
As an environment and natural resources policy Ph.D. candidate at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and as a fellow at the Center for Environmental Medicine Informatics, Petroni spends a lot of time considering the contents of the air around us and the effects of pollution on the human body.
“There are a lot of documented ways that air pollution can affect our health,” Petroni explains. “And when the pandemic hit, we tried to think of how we could mobilize our research and our expertise to try to help in any way that we could.”
Petroni and his team set out to see how different kinds of air pollution in specific locations impact individuals’ ability to recover from COVID-19. He led a study from researchers at SUNY ESF and ProPublica which found that COVID-19 deaths are more common in areas with higher levels of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs).