The life expectancy in China has been cut by an average of five and half years due to toxic air pollution from coal combustion in the northern part of the country, a new study released Monday finds.
A study co-authored by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tsinghua University and Peking University in Beijing, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem looked at decades of data on pollution across China and found that the pollution in the 1990s in the region north of the Huai River, that runs through the center of the country, resulted in a lower life expectancy rate by more than five years with higher rates of lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes, Financial Times reports.
"This is the first time anyone has got the data to show how severe long-term pollution affects human health, both in terms of life expectancy and the types of disease," said Li Hongbin, economics professor at Tsinghua University and one of the researchers of the study.
"It shows how high the cost of pollution is in terms of human life -- and that it is worth it for the government to spend more money to solve the pollution issue, even if we have to sacrifice growth."
Hongbin added that the shorter life expectancy is equivalent to cutting the workforce by one-eighth.
Toxic smog spiked in January, reaching record levels in Beijing causing Chinese citizens to counter the problem by stocking up on air filters and face masks. Sports facilities with "pollution domes" that provide filtered air have also become more common.
While China's economic growth has been dramatic in the last three decades, it has come at the cost of poor air, soil and water quality, the researchers note. The pollution problem has increased social unrest, and although the government has tried to implement tighter regulations, there has been little change.
In June, the Chinese government set goals of reducing emissions in certain industries by 30 percent by the end of 2017, The Wall Street Journa
l reports .
"The government takes this problem very seriously," said Tang Dagang, director of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection's Vehicle Emission Control Center. "These measure are much stricter and more specific than in the past."
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