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Air Pollution Kills 4000 People Per Day In China

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A new study has found that air pollution in China causes about 4,400 fatalities daily, or about 1.6 million deaths per year.

Air pollution is a hazardous environmental problem all around the world, specifically in developing countries. Mortality due to air pollution is said to be more significant in terms of statistics compared to other diseases such as breast cancer, malaria, tuberculosis or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The fatal component of dirty air is airborne particulate matter (PM), which is estimated to kill about 3 million to 7 million people per year since it aggravates or induces cardiopulmonary diseases.

In 2012, China implemented the Ambient Air Quality Standard and initiated a system that helps to report the air quality throughout the nation; at present, the system includes 945 stations in 190 cities. The sites continuously monitor the air and come up with findings every hour. The automated system targets six particular pollutants, which include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, PM that is less than 2.5 microns and PM that is less than 10 microns.

Researchers from Berkeley Earth, a non-profit organization, analyzed air quality reports from China's system. Because China has limited public access to the data, the scientists used two third-party sources, named PM25.in and AQICN.org, and thus were able to obtain real-time hourly data from April 5, 2014 to Aug. 5, 2014 across 1,500 different locations in China, Taiwan and South Korea.

The findings of the study, released on Thursday, Aug. 13, show that air pollution results in 17 percent of deaths in China. Approximately 92 percent of the people in China have been exposed to more than 120 hours of "unhealthy" air over the four-month observation period, according to standards defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study also said that 38 percent of the population have experienced average unhealthy air.

"In other words nearly everyone in China experiences air that is worse for particulates than the worst air in the U.S.," said Robert Rohde, the study's lead author.

Despite the results of the study, China has gained international praise for coming up with an air quality monitoring system. The measures used in the current study may also be employed in other monitoring systems around the world. However, such systems should be as comprehensive as China's hourly reporting. With this, the researchers recommend other countries follow China's lead and develop an air quality monitoring system that is extensive and real-time.

The study is set to be published in the peer review journal PLOS ONE.

Photo: Leo Fung | Flickr

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