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Health & Environment

China: PM2.5 air pollutants causing more deaths than estimated, study says

Beijing resident Tan Liang takes readings of microscopic air pollutants on a PM2.5 detector

Beijing resident Tan Liang takes readings of microscopic air pollutants on a PM2.5 detector

The health risks of microscopic air pollutants have been grossly underestimated on the mainland, with nearly 8,600 premature deaths expected this year in four major cities, a study has revealed.

And premature deaths are “just a tiny fraction” of the adverse health impacts of tiny airborne particles, less than 2.5 microns in diameter, known as fine particle matter 2.5 (PM2.5).

The startling findings were included in a report by Greenpeace East Asia and Peking University’s school of public health which, for the first time, focused on PM2.5 health hazards in urban areas.

Environmentalists have hailed the study, released yesterday, as ground-breaking, with data linking poor air quality to deadly diseases.

Noting that the World Bank once put the number of premature deaths on the mainland as a result of air pollution at more than 200,000, Professor Pan Xiaochuan, of Peking University, said the study focused on a single pollutant and had not taken into account the long-term health impact of PM2.5, which could be far more dangerous.

The study’s estimation of combined economic losses caused by premature deaths, put at 6.8 billion yuan (HK$8.34 billion), was also likely to be far lower than the real figure owing to limited access to official statistics, he added.

Fine particles have long been known to pose greater health risks than more than a dozen other air pollutants. They damage lung tissue and the cardiovascular system, cause lung cancer and other deadly diseases, and lead to a higher mortality rate.

Based on official mortality figures in 2010 and limited PM2.5 monitoring data in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xian, mostly from environment-related research institutes, the study showed a more than 10 per cent rise in premature deaths caused by PM2.5 pollution in the four cities over the past two years.

More than two-thirds of the 8,572 premature deaths this year caused by the microscopic pollutant occurred in Beijing and Shanghai. Although Beijing’s air pollution problem was worse, Shanghai saw the most deaths linked to PM2.5 – 3,317.

Pan said the study, which used internationally accepted mathematical methods, closely resembled the trends found in many other countries.

“People living in less polluted areas appear to be more sensitive to poor air quality and more prone to pollution-induced diseases,” he said yesterday.

Pan and Greenpeace campaigner Zhou Rong, both of whom helped draft the report, said their estimated death tolls may be far lower than the real figures because of a lack of transparency on air pollution and health data.

“We’ve tried to find more pollution readings and statistics about deadly, chronic diseases caused by long-term exposure to PM2.5, but we have made little progress,” Zhou said.

Previous research, partly sponsored by the government and released in 2006, showed that about 358,000 residents in 600 mainland cities died prematurely in 2004 from breathing polluted air, with an estimated health cost of 152.7 billion yuan.

Although the central government has included PM2.5 in pollution parameters and unveiled a timetable for the mandatory release of PM2.5 monitoring data, Zhou said it was too little, too late.

“PM2.5 is putting public health at high risk every day, but worse still, if we follow the current official plans [on tackling air pollution] we would need to wait another 20 years to meet the national standard, which remains too risky compared to the WHO guidelines,” Zhou said. “Who can afford to wait?”

The report said premature deaths would be cut by at least 81 per cent and economic losses at the four cities alone could be reduced by 5.5 billion yuan if stricter World Health Organisation standards were adopted.

Source: SCMP “PM2.5 air pollutants causing more deaths than estimated, study says”

About chankaiyee2

Author of the book "Tiananmen's Tremendous Achievements" about how with the help of Tiananmen Protests, talented scholars with moral integrity seized power in the Party and state and brought prosperity to China. The second edition of the book will be published within a few days to mark the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Protests All the parts in the first edition remain in the second edition with a few changes due to information available later and better understanding. There are also some changes for improvements of style. The new parts are Chapters 12-19 on events in China after the first edition was published: The fierce power struggle for succession between reformists and conservatives; Xi Jinping winning all elders’ support during his mysterious disappearance for 2 weeks in early September, 2012; and Xi Jinping Cyclone. Chan Kai Yee's new book: SPACE ERA STRATEGY: The Way China Beats The US An eye-opening book that tells the truth how the US is losing to China. The US is losing as it adopts the outdated strategy of Air-Sea Battle while China adopts the space era strategy to pursue integrated space and air capabilities: It is losing due to its diplomacy that has given rise to Russian-Chinese alliance. US outdated strategy has enabled China to catch up and surpass the US in key weapons: Hypersonic weapons (HGV) that Pentagon regards as the weapon that will dominate the world in the future. Aerospaceplane in China’s development of space-air bomber that can engage enemy anywhere in the world within an hour and destroy an entire aircraft carrier battle group within minutes. Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, anti-ASAT weapons, stealth aircrafts, drones, AEW&C, etc. The book gives detailed descriptions of China’s weapon development based on information mainly from Chinese sources that the author monitors closely. U.S. Must Not Be Beaten by China! China is not a democracy. Its political system cannot prevent the emergence of a despotic leader or stop such a leader when he begins to bring disasters to people. A few decades ago, Mao Zedong, the worst tyrant in world history did emerge and bring disasters to Chinese people. He wanted to fight a nuclear war to replace capitalism with communism but could not bring nuclear holocaust to world people as China was too weak and poor at that time. If a despot like Mao Zedong emerges when China has surpassed the US in military strength, world people will suffer the misery experienced by Chinese people in Mao era. China surpassing the US in GDP is not something to worry about as China has the heavy burden to satisfy its huge population, but China surpassing the US in military strength will be world people’s greatest concern if China remains an autocracy. US people are of much better quality than Chinese people. What they lack is a wise leader to adopt the correct strategy and diplomacy and the creative ways to use its resources in developing its military capabilities. I hope that with the emergence of a great leader, the US can put an end to its decline and remain number one in the world. China, US, space era strategy, air-sea battle, space-air bomber, arms race, weapon development, chan kai yee

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