The scientific findings from Berkeley Earth in Berkeley, Calif., used statistical methods similar to the ones the research firm used to find increase in world average temperatures were caused “almost entirely” by human activity, The New York Times reported.
A recent study has determined that air pollution is responsible for 1.6 million deaths per year in China. “When I was last year in Beijing, pollution was at the hazardous level; every hour of exposure reduced my life expectancy by 20 minutes”.
Unlike the U.S., air pollution in China is worst in the winter because of burning of coal to heat homes and weather conditions that keeps dirty air closer to the ground, Rohde said.
Bad air contributed to 1.6 million deaths a year or roughly 17% of all deaths in China, according to the scientific paper published Thursday by independent research group Berkeley Earth. The odd thing is, though, that information about air pollution-how extensive it is, how much damage it does-has long been sketchy, based mostly on satellite data or computer models.
Though air quality varies month by month and day by day, Muller and Rohde found that 92 percent of the country’s population experience 120 hours or more of pollution levels considered “unhealthy” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Responding to the outcry, the government set up a national air-reporting system which now has nearly 1,000 monitoring stations, pumping out hourly reports on six pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, ozone and (the main culprit) particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter, or PM2.5.
To put Chinese air pollution in perspective, the most recent American Lung Association data shows that Madera, California, has the highest annual average for small particles in the United States. “Some of the worst in China is to the southwest of Beijing”.
“It’s a very big number”, Rohde said. “It’s a little hard to wrap your mind around the numbers”.
“In a manner of speaking, China is exporting its air pollution to the West Coast of America”, he said in a statement.
But according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, air pollution is only the 10th most problematic risk factor for early death in the U.S., far behind diet, smoking, high body mass index and several others.