Impact of long-term exposure to PM2.5 and temperature on coronavirus disease mortality: observed trends in France

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Background The outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and was declared a global pandemic on 11 March 2020. This study aimed to assess the effects of temperature and long-term exposure to air pollution on the COVID-19 mortality rate at the sub-national level in France.

Methods This cross-sectional study considered different periods of the COVID-19 pandemic from May to December 2020. It included 96 departments (or NUTS 3) in mainland France. Data on long-term exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5), annual mean temperature, health services, health risk, and socio-spatial factors were used as covariates in negative binomial regression analysis to assess their influence on the COVID-19 mortality rate. All data were obtained from open-access sources.

Results The cumulative COVID-19 mortality rate by department increased during the study period in metropolitan France—from 19.8/100,000 inhabitants (standard deviation (SD): 20.1) on 1 May 2020, to 65.4/100,000 inhabitants (SD: 39.4) on 31 December 2020. The rate was the highest in the departments where the annual average of long-term exposure to PM2.5 was high. The negative binomial regression models showed that a 1 µg/m³ increase in the annual average PM2.5 concentration was associated with a statistically significant increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate, corresponding to 24.4%, 25.8%, 26.4%, 26.7%, 27.1%, 25.8%, and 15.1% in May, June, July, August, September, October, and November, respectively. This association was no longer significant on 1 and 31 December 2020. The association between temperature and the COVID-19 mortality rate was only significant on 1 November, 1 December, and 31 December 2020. An increase of 1°C in the average temperature was associated with a decrease in the COVID-19-mortality rate, corresponding to 9.7%, 13.3%, and 14.5% on 1 November, 1 December, and 31 December 2020, respectively.

Conclusion This study found significant associations between the COVID-19 mortality rate and long-term exposure to air pollution and temperature. However, these associations tended to decrease with the persistence of the pandemic and massive spread of the disease across the entire country.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Long-term exposure to PM2.5
  • Air pollution
  • Temperature
  • Spatial disparity
  • COVID-19 mortality rate
  • France

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