Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Truth About Air Pollution in China

Air pollution in Beijing is apparently not as bad as some other cities in China
A new study by Greenpeace and Peking University shows that air pollution kills more people than smoking in many cities in China.

The smog-inducing pollutants known as PM2.5 caused 257,000 premature deaths across the mainland's 31 cities and provincial capitals in 2013 according to the study, an average of about 90 in every 100,000 deaths.

But the averages were higher in 12 of the 31 cities, including Shijiazhuang, Nanjing, Tianjin and Chongqing, where at least 100 out of every 100,000 deaths were caused by PM2.5.

These two averages were higher than the official mortality rate for smoking, which was about 70 per 100,000 deaths in 2012, according to Greenpeace.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, as there are some cities, like those in Hebei province that are even more polluted, but were not included in the survey.

Although many complain about Beijing's smog, the Chinese capital actually measured 79 of every 100,000 premature deaths due to air pollution, lower than 21 other cities featured.

Peking University professor Pan Xiaochuan said the survey team tried to collect data from more than 100 cities, but many had data that was either incomplete or inconsistent.

This says a lot about not only collecting data properly, but also the individual municipalities' and provinces' concerns about public healthcare issues. PM 2.5 are tiny particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns that can stay lodged in a person's lungs.

While 21 cities have introduced plans to tackle air pollution, setting themselves reduction targets to be met by 2017, Greenpeace says even if such goals were met, only 26,000 deaths could be avoided annually.

The environmental activist group says the entire country needs to make a concerted comprehensive and collected effort to reduce pollution.

There are no official statistics on premature deaths caused by air pollution. In 2013, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention launched a study on the impact of smog on public health, but the results won't be ready until later this year.

Interestingly last year former health minister Chen Zhu and three other authors estimated in The Lancet medical journal that air pollution caused 350,000 to 500,000 premature deaths per year.

But an earlier study in the same journal said air pollution accounted for 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010 alone.

So what are the real numbers? Perhaps China is too scared to find out... or more importantly be blamed for these deaths...

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