09 Jul 2013:
Coal Emissions in China Slash
5.5 Years off Life Expectancy, Study Says
The life expectancy of people living in northern China is 5 ½ years less than in southern China
as a result of the north’s notoriously bad air pollution, largely due to the burning of coal, according to a new study. In an analysis of air quality recordings from 90 Chinese cities from 1981 to 2000 and mortality data from the 1990s, a team of researchers estimated that high air pollution will cost the roughly 500
million people living north of the Huai River a combined 2.5 billion years of life expectancy compared with people living in the south. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, the researchers say increased mortality, attributable to cardiorespiratory illness
, is the unintended consequence of a Chinese policy that from 1950 to 1980 provided free coal for boilers in cities north of the Huai, but not for those living in the south. According to the study, concentrations of total suspended particulates, or TSPs, exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic meter north of the Huai, about 55 percent higher than levels in the south. Earlier this year, some Chinese cities, including Beijing, recorded particulate-matter levels exceeding 700 micrograms per cubic meter. “Everyone understands it’s unpleasant to be in a polluted place,” said Michael Greenstone, a professor of environmental economics at MIT and one of the authors of the paper. “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.”
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.
, winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest, documents the work of African researchers monitoring wildlife in Uganda's remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Watch the video.