News / Asia

    Air Pollution in Northern China Blamed for Drop in Life Span

    Endless lines of slow-moving cars emerge like apparitions and disappear into the gloom of the thick smog that has shrouded Beijing for weeks and reduced its skyline to blurry gray shapes, January 31, 2013.
    Endless lines of slow-moving cars emerge like apparitions and disappear into the gloom of the thick smog that has shrouded Beijing for weeks and reduced its skyline to blurry gray shapes, January 31, 2013.
    VOA News
    Researchers studying the health impact of China’s air pollution say that people in the south of the country are living on average 5.5 years longer than their counterparts in the north.

    Using health and pollution data collected by official Chinese sources, scientists concluded that decades of burning coal have led to a rise in deaths from cardio-respiratory diseases for people living north of the Huai River - considered the dividing line between northern and southern China.

    The academics from the United States, Israel and China concluded that government coal policies in force since China’s Mao era have resulted in higher levels of total suspended particulates north of the Huai River.

    Coal winters

    Incidence of disease in north and south China, 1999-2000Incidence of disease in north and south China, 1999-2000
    x
    Incidence of disease in north and south China, 1999-2000
    Incidence of disease in north and south China, 1999-2000
    Li Hongbin, professor of Economics at Tsinghua’s School of Economic and Management and one of the authors of the study, says that winter heating is a major reason for high emissions in the cold north of China.

    "The north of China relies on central heating based on burning coal that originates heavy air pollution. This is one the most important reasons why there’s such a big difference in pollution level between the north and the south” he says.

    The study, published on the American journal The Proceeding of National Academy of Sciences, shows that excessive coal burning raises the level of soot, smoke and other airborne particles - the total suspended particulates - by 55 percent more in the northern bank of the Huai River.

    Li Hongbin says that “basically, exposure to total suspended particulates level above 100 micrograms per cubic meter reduces life expectancy of about 3 years and increases mortality by 14 percent.” 

    The Huai River divide

    In the aftermath of the communist revolution, the Chinese government started a policy of allocating free coal for boilers that could generate heat during the north’s cold winters.
    At the time the demarcation line was set along the Huai River, one of major waterways that runs across Henan, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces in central China.

    Today that border is still in place and the country is still burning coal to stay warm.

    In addition to central heating, coal has also been used to feed a flourishing government-led heavy industry in northern provinces for decades.

    • Women wearing face masks run to cross a street in Beijing, May 6, 2013. The United States Embassy monitor on air quality in China classified the quality of air in Beijing as "hazardous."
    • A man rows a boat on a river during a hazy morning in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, June 16, 2013. 
    • A man wearing a mask is seen on a street in Beijing, May 2, 2013. Street-level anger over air pollution that blanketed many northern cities this winter spilled over into online appeals for Beijing to clean water supplies.
    • A statue of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong is seen in front of buildings during a hazy day in Shenyang, Liaoning province, May 7, 2013. 
    • Beijing schools kept children indoors, January 14, 2013, and hospitals saw a spike in respiratory cases following a weekend of excessive pollution in China's smoggy capital.
    • A teacher leads her students doing body exercises during class break in a classroom on a foggy day in Jinan, Shandong province, January 14, 2013.
    • Cranes atop a residential building under construction in central Beijing, April 18, 2012.
    • Smoke billows from a chimney of a heating plant in Beijing, February 13, 2012.
    • Haze blankets the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, as seen from inside the Olympic Green area during the Olympics, August 7, 2008.
    • A coal-burning power station at night in Xiangfan, Hubei province, September 15, 2009.
    • Paramilitary policemen practice drills inside the Forbidden City amid haze in central Beijing, December 4, 2011.
    • Buildings in Beijing are pictured on an evening with heavy haze and smog, October 28, 2011.

    Impact on health

    This week’s report is the latest to raise alarms over the health impacts of China’s worsening air pollution. 

    The Ministry of Environment said last month that only 27 out of 113 major cities met government air quality standards in 2012. And a World Bank report in 2007 assessed that between 350,000 and 400,000 people die prematurely in China each year because of air pollution.

    Wang Xinchao, from Beijing-based Ngo Global Village, says that China’s urban residents are becoming increasingly concerned with air pollution and are ready to take action to protect their health.

    Although China still relies heavily on coal especially for winter heating, “using coal is not very efficient but the level of pollution coming out of it is obvious. Ordinary citizens need to make a responsible choice about this,” she says.

    To some, the growing seriousness of the problem is a sign that the authorities will address it.  Wang Xinchao is confident the authorities will be forced to act.

    “The impact on city life is so big that from now on we can only see a progress towards its improvement” she says.

    You May Like

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Sun from: Taipei
    July 14, 2013 11:32 PM
    Gross domestic product grew 7.5% over the previous year during the second quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics reported Monday (CNN). Chinese bubble economy looks like to collapse soon. This is the consequence of CPR's wasting money in military expansionism. Many analysts say Chinese GDP will fall into 7% in the second half of this year. Then, I'm afraid that economical divide among Chinese people will be enlarged and riots will occur more often in China.

    by: ununennium from: China
    July 14, 2013 12:30 PM
    This is an inevitable stage that a developing country will comes through. Perhaps China at present is implementing the "develop first, clean up later" policy

    by: Wangchuk from: NY
    July 11, 2013 9:55 AM
    Unfortunately the CCP only pays lip service to fighting pollution & protecting the environment. There are environmental laws but rarely enforced and the Chinese EPA has only about 300 people for a country of 1.4 billion. As long as the CCP's sole goal is improving or maintaining a high GDP, pollution will be a major problem in China. The CCP needs a high GDP to maintain political power & that is more important to the Party than the Chinese environment or Chinese lifespans.

    by: Schneider from: B.R.Deutschland
    July 10, 2013 3:16 AM
    China must invest lots of money in resolving air pollution problem instead of wasting much money in expanding its military forces. If China wants to be respected as one of the world's economic giants, China must ask for help from environmentally developed countries such as Germany and Japan so that it can fulfill its responsibility in the world.

    by: lapazjim from: USA
    July 09, 2013 10:00 AM
    At the current rate that China is seeing pollution their people are going to start dropping like flies soon.Their cities may become uninhabitable and thus cause a mass exodus to other lesser polluted areas.The damage is done and will take a very very long time before it cleans up.This is a price they are paying for their new found manufacturing age.At the same time there were no restrictions or rules as to what could or could not be released into the air.With the same also being what they could not dump into their waters. Welome to the industrial age CHINA!!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.