In a new study, researchers found that China’s air pollution is responsible for about 1.6 million deaths each year; that’s a staggering nearly 4,400 deaths per day.
Researchers from Berkeley Earth, which is a non-profit climate research organization, published their findings online.
The study showed that pollution was causing about 17 percent of the deaths in China.
Data from 1,500 locations across China, South Korea, and Taiwan was taken over a 4-month period.
NASA animation shows Asian air pollution moving across the globe:
According to the study, the most deadly pollutant was in the form of tiny particles coming from electric power plants, and from the fossil fuels that are used in homes and factories used for heating. These tiny particles have been entering the lungs and bloodstream of people, which has been causing illnesses from asthma to heart disease.
“During our analysis period, 92 percent of the population of China experienced (over) 120 hours of unhealthy air (U.S. EPA standard), and 38 percent experienced average concentrations that were unhealthy. The observed air pollution is calculated to contribute to 1.6 million deaths/year in China (0.7-2.2 million deaths/year at 95 percent confidence), roughly 17 percent of all deaths in China, the authors wrote.
How deadly is China’s pollution problem?
According to The New York Times, the group says its mortality estimates are based on a World Health Organization framework for projecting death rates from five diseases known to be associated with exposure to various levels of fine-particulate pollution. The authors calculate that the annual toll is 95 percent likely to fall between 700,000 and 2.2 million deaths, and their estimate of 1.6 million a year is the midpoint of that range.
The Chinese government has routinely censored data showing that air pollution is killing its citizens. Although the authorities are gradually giving greater public access to air quality readings, the study still had difficulties in gathering data. “Though China deserves praise for its monitoring system and transparent communication, most archived observations are not publicly available.”
Under the Dome—investigating China’s smog:
Chinese censors routinely scour Chinese websites and social media channels for anything the ruling Communist Party thinks might provoke unrest. In March, a documentary video called Under the Dome, which was about the health effects of air pollution, became popular with the party’s central propaganda department and ordered Chinese websites to delete it.
China has a long way to go before the people of China will have air that is safe to breathe.