A number of nations were forced to declare a total shutdown due to COVID-19 infection, as extreme measure to cope with dramatic impact of the pandemic, with remarkable consequences both in terms of negative health outcomes and economic loses. However, in many countries a “Phase-2” is approaching and many activities will re-open soon, although with some differences depending on the severity of the outbreak experienced and SARS-COV-2 estimated diffusion in the general population. At the present, possible relapses of the epidemic cannot be excluded until effective vaccines or immunoprophylaxis with human recombinant antibodies will be properly set up and commercialized. COVD-19-related quarantines have triggered serious social challenges, so that decision makers are concerned about the risk of wasting all the sacrifices imposed to the people in these months of quarantine. The availability of possible early predictive indicators of future epidemic relapses would be very useful for public health purposes, and could potentially prevent the suspension of entire national economic systems. On 16 March, a Position Paper launched by the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine (SIMA) hypothesized for the first time a possible link between the dramatic impact of COVID-19 outbreak in Northern Italy and the high concentrations of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) that characterize this area, along with its well-known specific climatic conditions. Thereafter, a survey carried out in the U.S. by the Harvard School of Public Health suggested a strong association between increases in particulate matter concentration and mortality rates due to COVID-19. The presence of SARS-COV-2 RNA on the particulate matter of Bergamo, which is not far from Milan and represents the epicenter of the Italian epidemic, seems to confirm (at least in case of atmospheric stability and high PM concentrations, as it usually occurs in Northern Italy) that the virus can create clusters with the particles and be carried and detected on PM10. Although no assumptions can be made concerning the link between this first experimental finding and COVID-19 outbreak progression or severity, the presence of SARS-COV-2 RNA on PM10 of outdoor air samples in any city of the world could represent a potential early indicator of COVID-19 diffusion. Searching for the viral genome on particulate matter could therefore be explored among the possible strategies for adopting all the necessary preventive measures before future epidemics start.
Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering