The interwoven impacts of environmental racism, police tactics, and climate change are creating a triple-threat of increased COVID-19 vulnerability, KQED reported. Respiratory health is a crucial component of limiting the fatality of the COVID-19, but police use of chemical weapons like tear gas could worsen the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, especially when combined with what is expected to be a hot, dry wildfire season fueled by climate change and heightened air pollution levels in communities of color. Research has shown wildfire smoke makes communities more susceptible to respiratory disease like influenza, and exposure to tear gas, a chemical weapon banned in warfare under the Geneva Convention, substantially increases the risk of contracting acute respiratory infections.
“I’m an African American and I need to be in the protests against systemic racism, but I made a choice for my life,” Teron McGrew, a North Oakland resident with asthma told KQED of her decision not to attend recent protests in order to avoid police tear gas. “I made a choice but people who are dying from COVID-19 and asthma and pollution, they don’t have a choice. They’re dying because of the inequalities and the systemic racism.” (KQED)