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Pollution in Northern China Slashes 5.5 Years from Life Expectancy: Study

Update Date: Jul 09, 2013 02:49 AM EDT
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A new study has analyzed the effects of the air pollution in China on the country's occupants, and found that the half-billion people alive there in the 1990s will live an average of 5 1/2 years less than their southern counterparts.

The region also had higher rates of heart and lung disease as a result of the policy in force up to 1980.

These are the findings of a landmark study conducted by an international team of researchers, including academics from China's most prestigious universities, published this month in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study said that severe air pollution has cost the 500 million people living north of China's Huai River during the 1990s more than 2.5 billion years of aggregate life.

Some of the world's most polluted cities are located in northern China, and residents are speaking out in greater numbers about choking air pollution, contaminated food, and water that is unsafe to drink.

"We will never, thank goodness, have a randomized, controlled trial where we expose some people to more pollution and other people to less pollution over the course of their lifetimes," said MIT's Michael Greenstone, one of the authors. "It's not that the Chinese government set out to cause [a negative effect on health]. This was the unintended consequence" of the policy at the time.

Greenstone and his coauthors found that north of the river, total suspended particulates, or TSPs, were over 500 micrograms per cubic meter, or 55% higher than levels in the south. Life expectancy in the north was 5.5 years lower - almost entirely because of higher incidences of cardiorespiratory deaths.

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