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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid