News / Asia

Study: Coal Pollution Cuts North China Lifespans by 5.5 Years

A man wearing a mask is seen on a street in Beijing, May 2, 2013.A man wearing a mask is seen on a street in Beijing, May 2, 2013.
x
A man wearing a mask is seen on a street in Beijing, May 2, 2013.
A man wearing a mask is seen on a street in Beijing, May 2, 2013.
Reuters
Air pollution is shortening the lives of people in northern China by about 5.5 years compared to those living in the south, a disastrous legacy of a policy that provided free coal for heating in the north, an international study shows.

Environmental problems are a source of rising social discontent in China; last month Beijing promised new measures to crack down on air pollution, partly by hastening a shift to renewable energy from fossil fuels.

The report, by experts in China, the United States and Israel, said a communist policy of giving out free coal everywhere north of the Huai River in central China between 1950 and 1980 meant more heart and lung disease among 500 million people living in the area.

“Life expectancies are about 5.5 years lower in the north owing to an increased incidence of cardio-respiratory mortality,” the researchers wrote in Tuesday's edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS].

Studying pollution and deaths in 90 cities, the experts found that life expectancy tumbled just north of the Huai River, where air pollution from burning coal was 55 percent higher than to the south between 1981 and 2000.

“The analysis suggests that the Huai River policy, which had the laudable goal of providing indoor heat, had disastrous consequences for health,” according to the study. It did not estimate how many lives the policy may have saved from winter cold.

Legacy continues

“The legacy of the policy continues today,” said Michael Greenstone, a professor of environmental economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the four authors. He noted that many buildings still had the coal-fired boilers that were installed for heating when coal was free, often with few filters.

The scientists said the findings, which firmly link air pollution to life expectancy, might help emerging economies such as China, India or Brazil to find better ways to combine a drive for economic growth with environmental controls.

“These are very powerful results,” said Barbara Finamore, a China expert at the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council who was not involved in the study. “It provides new reason for concern among the population in northern China about the effect of coal on health.”

China's cabinet last month promised measures such as accelerating the installation of pollution control equipment on small, coal-fueled refineries and curbing the growth of industries, such as steel and cement that consume large amounts of energy.

The World Health Organization says that about 2 million people annually die from air pollution, mostly in developing countries. Cities such as Karachi, New Delhi, Kathmandu, Beijing, Lima and Cairo are among the most polluted, it says.

Even in Europe, for instance, air pollution shortens average life expectancy by 8 months, said Anke Luekewille, an expert at the European Environment Agency in Denmark, although pollution levels have fallen considerably in recent decades.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid