Air pollution caused by coal-fired winter heating has slashed life expectancy in northern China by more than three years compared with the south, reported Reuters citing the results of a new study.
Researchers with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) said average lifespans north of the Huai river, where China supplies mostly coal-fired winter heat, were 3.1 years lower than in the south, which is not covered by the state heating policy. EPIC’s study cites long-term smog exposure as a primary cause of the difference.
In a statement, EPIC said its study examined pollution and mortality data in 154 cities from 2004 to 2012, and found higher death rates were due entirely to increases in cardiorespiratory illnesses. EPIC didn’t give an absolute number for average life expectancy, but said its study was the first to focus on differences in air quality north and south of the Huai river.
“We know on highly polluted days more people die and more people are sick, but what this study helps to isolate are the consequences of long-run sustained exposure,” said Michael Greenstone, EPIC director and one of the report’s authors.
China is in the fourth year of a “war on pollution” designed to reverse the damage done by decades of untrammelled economic growth and allay concerns that hazardous smog and widespread water and soil contamination are causing hundreds of thousands of early deaths every year.
According to EPIC, if China were to comply with World Health Organization air quality standards, its people could live 3.5 years longer on average.
The average life expectancy of the Chinese rose to 76.5 years in 2016 from 67.9 years in 1981, which means that it increased by 8.6 years in 35 years, according to a white paper released by the State Council Information Office last Friday.