Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Human Biology

Reader 1

Benjamin Schlau

Reader 2

Elise Ferree


This study explores the impact of air pollutants on COVID-19 health outcomes in the state of California (CA). Although COVID-19 has changed the landscape in terms of public health, environmental justice issues have been simultaneously an overlooked public health concern. Analysis of rural and urban counties was crucial to highlight the divide between the two areas. The research hypothesizes that rural CA counties would be more vulnerable to COVID-19 outcomes due to lower vaccination rates. Rural counties will be more prone to pesticides while urban counties will be more prone to diesel PM (particulate matter), PM 2.5, and average pollution burden that will heighten COVID-19. There are disparities at play, which could serve as confounding variables such as education, age demographics, race, and SES (socioeconomic status). The environmental air pollutants that were analyzed include pesticides, diesel PM, PM 2.5, and average pollution burden that have been known to affect the respiratory system. This information was retrieved from CalEnviroScreen 4.0. Additionally, the COVID-19 health outcomes included mortality rates per 100,000 individuals, hospitalizations, percentage of county vaccinated, and percentage of county boosted. This information was retrieved from the New York Times COVID-19 tracker that used reports from county governments and health districts. Fifty-eight counties in CA were reflected in the sample size. ANCOVAs and linear regressions were run for the statistical analysis. The key findings were that diesel drove COVID-19 hospitalizations in rural CA counties and PM 2.5 drove COVID-19 cases in urban CA counties. The research findings are practical in implementing stricter environmental regulations on known air pollutants, so public health issues are addressed.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.