Study: Smog decreases life expectancy by 5 years

2013-7-10 10:39:00 From:

A new study now shows air pollution cuts life expectancy for those living in northern China's by an average of 5.5 years. In northern areas, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases are at a higher rate than elsewhere in the country.

The study was published by professors from Tsinghua University, Peking University, MIT and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Li Hongbin, professor from Tsinghua University, is one of the researchers involved with the study. Li said that if the number of particle pollutants in the air increases by 100 micrograms, the average life expectancy of those breathing in such air would be cut by 3 years.

Based on this calculation, if the amount of particle pollutants contained within the air in northern China is 200 micrograms higher than that of the current levels for southern China's air, then it is estimated that 5 years will be cut from one's life expectancy, Li said during an exclusive interview with China Radio International.

Researchers also stated that the combustion of coal in boilers is associated with the release of air pollutants and the emission of particulate matter that can be extremely harmful to human health.

Due to previous government policies, indoor heating is common in the north but not in the south. The heating divide is defined by the line formed by the Huai River and Qinling Mountain range. Many coal boilers used as part of heating systems are still in use within the north.

Researchers collected data from 90 cities based on the years 1981 to 2000 and estimated the impact on life expectancies using mortality data from 1991-2000.

They found that in the north, the concentration of pollutants in the air was 55 percent higher than in the south.

Meanwhile, the air pollution typically gets worse in the winter because of weather conditions and an increase in coal burning for heating needs.

Chen Yuyu, one of the authors of the study, said that he hoped more and more scientists and even the public should pay attention to the air pollution problem, and more funding can be spent on research on this issue, so that people can have a better understanding of the costs, including the health costs people pay for air pollution.

Chen added the more importantly, people need to find a more effective, economical and widely supported approach to improve air quality.

China is making efforts to solve the air pollution that comes with its fast economic growth. Last month, China issued a series of measures to control air quality. The Chinese government aims to reduce the amount of air pollution emitted by its main industries by up to 30 percent by 2017.

Professor Li stated that controlling air pollution will be costly and that China must invest more in order to achieve its goals.

Li said that China will pay a high price if each person's life expectancy decreases by 5 years, as people will work for shorter periods due to deterioration in their health and the government will have to spend large amounts to cover the medical insurance program.


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