stock-photo-hongkong-victoria-harbor-at-haze-day-140330764Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong on smog day

A new study from MIT projects that the 500,000,000 Chinese people living north of China’s Huai River will suffer a combined reduced life expectancy of 2,500,000,000 years because of particulate pollution from coal used to power and heat the region.  On average, that’s 5 years of life lost for every person in the region because of bad air quality.

As Financial Times points out, that’s the equivalent of reducing the workforce in northern China by one-eighth.

MIT researchers studied the amount of particulates in the air from 1981 to 2000, 1981 being the year Chinese policy began giving free coal to the region north of the river.   During that time period, particulates in the north were 55% higher than in the south.  Mortality statistics showed far more deaths from cardiorespiratory diseases in the north region than in the south.

The research team showed that for every 100 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter added to the atmosphere in any location, not just China, life expectancy at birth is reduced by 3 years.

On its worst days, Beijing’s air pollution was over 900 micrograms per cubic meter.

Michael Greenstone, professor at MIT, conducted the study with colleagues in China and Israel and said, “Everyone understands it’s unpleasant to be in a polluted place.  But to be able to say with some precision what the health costs are, and what the loss of life expectancy is, puts a finer point on the importance of finding policies that balance growth with environmental quality.”

Source:   Smart Planet Daily, July 10, 2013               Study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 8, 2013


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