Residents of smoggy northern China have a life expectancy 5.5 years shorter than than (comparatively) clean-air southerners, according to a 20-year study published by the American National Academy of Sciences. The study was undertaken by economists in China, the US, and Israel, and compared deaths from lung cancer and respiratory illness to each region’s pollution ratings. Shanghai’s cheery smog is actually below the north/south threshold, so let’s toast to only mildly deadly pollution!
The rough between “north” and “south” was determined to be the Huai river (just above Nanjing) as Mao-era economic policies provided free coal to cities above the river, and laid the foundations for today’s smog-pocalypses. The LA Times reports:
Other studies have established strong correlations between air pollution and poor health and attempted to quantify the loss of life in China due to air pollution. But the specificity of the study published Monday may provide a jolt to policymakers and the public as debate intensifies over how much China has sacrificed to achieve rapid economic growth. […]
Greenstone and his coauthors found that north of the river, total suspended particulates, or TSPs, were over 500 micrograms per cubic meter, or 55% higher than levels in the south. Life expectancy in the north was 5.5 years lower — almost entirely because of higher incidences of cardiorespiratory deaths.
Based on their modeling, the researchers estimated that the 500 million residents of northern China in the 1990s collectively lost 2.5 billion years from their lives.
“It’s a huge loss. Air pollution in China is really damaging people’s health much more seriously than the findings in previous literature” would suggest, said Yuyu Chen of Peking University in Beijing, another author. “After this study, there should be no argument over whether we should take the air pollution issue seriously…. We need a comprehensive clean air act in China.”
Or just put it off until Beijing becomes a cloud of death again this winter. Either way. Also, comments on how this study is American propaganda, and how pollution is great for your health, are welcome.