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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More