Universities to host Environmental Justice and Coronavirus Panel

Updated: Nov. 18, 2020 at 8:04 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston say they are holding a panel discussion to talk about the link between coronavirus mortality rates and pollution.

Specifically, the universities say they are discussing at their Wednesday panel how amounts of pollution in certain communities could be linked to higher COVID-19 mortality rates.

One College of Charleston professor says it’s no secret our ports, factories, and highways contribute a significant amount of pollution to our air the Lowcountry.

Three experts are hashing out the issues and possible solutions to address pollution exposure amid a pandemic that targets the respiratory system, university representatives said.

The three members of Wednesday’s panel say they will dive further into the possible connection between health disparities during the pandemic and environmental justice.

Two of the three panelists are professors at the College of Charleston and panel organizers say the third is a community activist.

All three panelists will be taking questions directly from attendees, and MUSC spokesperson John Brooker says he hopes doctors with the hospital will be tuning in as well.

Dr. Vijay Vulava with the College of Charleston says communities close to pollution sources, like factories, often experience more health issues because of the chemicals and vapors in the air.

A lot of these health issues are specifically related to lung functions, heart functions and even immune functions, Vulava says.

These communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and Brooker says Wednesday’s discussions will further MUSC’s goals of exploring the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Certain communities, especially black and indigenous, people of color, communities, how they kind of bear a stronger burden of the pandemic both in the illness but also in mortality and the eventual effects of the illness,” Brooker says.

People can watch Wednesday’s 1 p.m. panel on Microsoft Teams and organizers say attendees are urged to asked the experts questions live during the session.

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