China Still Facing Emissions Crisis as Life Expectancy Drops for Citizens

By: | January 26th, 2014

Exposure to heavy air pollution in China contributes to serious medical threats to people in the area, including reducing years of life and increasing mortality rates, says a new study from the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The study focused on eight urban districts in Beijing, one of the most populated cities in the world with 20 million residents, by looking at the measure of YLL (Years of Life Lost).

In most Chinese cities, the air pollution is above the average recommended by the World Health Organization for air quality. With Beijing’s rapidly increasing population density over the years, the city has experienced more cars on the road and an unparalleled spike in construction. This has all contributed to the city’s air pollution problem, which one of the study’s authors Yuming Guo says is detrimental to residents’ health.

The study found that YLL is higher for men than for women, though this may be attributed to the fact that China’s male population is higher than that of women, shown by the country’s 2010 census. Meanwhile, people under 65 were found to be affected much more so than the over 65s. However, these results were opposite when the researchers looked at the same data with regards to death.

BMJ’s study was conducted on data gathered between 2004 and 2008. Since then, China has come under increased scrutiny for its air pollution with the Communist Party government attempting to address the matter through different means such as new quotas for construction and coal burning, which are coming into effect later this year.

The UN climate chief recently praised China for its efforts to reduce hazards of late but the rates of air pollution remains staggeringly high and a risk to people’s health with the government issuing a new warning in early January, advising people to wear protective masks and urging children to stay indoors.

China’s vast construction and engineering industries have made it into the economic powerhouse that it is today but health concerns for its people and untold environmental damage are the bigger prices the country has had to pay in exchange.

“Guo and colleagues have clearly shown the effects of heavy exposure to air pollution on years of life lost (YLL) and mortality risks in Beijing, China,” said Shinji Teramoto, a professor of pulmonary medicine at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, who reviewed the findings. “Their findings strongly imply the need to reduce the high levels of air pollution in Beijing, China.

“We totally agree with the authors that the high levels of air pollution in China may be a medical threat for the residents in China as well as adjacent Asian countries including Japan.” However, Teramoto noted that industrial emissions weren’t the only urgent health hazard facing the Chinese and that the high levels of tobacco consumption were also a concern.

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Jonathan Keane

Irish journalist writing on business, tech and engineering.


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