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The widespread use of coal in the north is causing the lower life expectancy

Chinese citizens living in the northern part of the country have a lower life expectancy than those in the south, according to a new study. 

The study, led by Michael Greenstone from the environmental economics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (who was accompanied by an Israeli and two Chinese scholars), said that heavy pollution in northern China causes citizens in that area to have lower lifespans than those in the south.

In fact, the study says that the 500 million people who live north of the Huai River will lose 2.5 billion years of life expectancy because of air pollution. More specifically, each northerner has a 5.5-year drop in life expectancy compared to southerners. 

This cut in life expectancy, according to the study, is mainly due to outdoor air pollution in the north. The concentration of particulates north of the Huai was 184 micrograms per cubic meter higher than in the south. This is about 55 percent greater in the north than south. 


This much air pollution is leading to cardiorespiratory diseases and other health problems related to breathing this in. The pollution is caused by the use of free coal for boilers for winter heating north of the river. Also, coal-fired factories are extremely common in the north compared to the south. 

The study analyzed health and pollution data collected by Chinese officials from 1981 to 2001. 

“It highlights that in developing countries there’s a trade-off in increasing incomes today and protecting public health and environmental quality,” said Greenstone. “And it highlights the fact that the public health costs are larger than we had thought.”

The researchers hope that this study pushes China to make greater environmental protection laws and take health risks associated with air pollution more seriously. 

This study was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Source: The New York Times





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