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6.70 lakh died in China in 2012 due to heavy pollution

POLLUTION

Beijing, Nov 5 (PTI) Over six lakh people died prematurely in China due to diseases caused by smog in 2012, a new study has said highlighting the magnitude of pollution crisis faced by the world’s second largest economy’s reliance on coal.

Tiny particulate pollutants, especially those smaller than 2.5 micrograms, known as PM2.5, were linked to 6.70 lakh premature deaths from diseases like strokes, lung cancer, coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in China in 2012, Teng Fei, an associate professor at Tsinghua University was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post today. The study by researchers was aimed to put a price tag on the environmental and social costs of the heavy reliance on the coal.

The new study based on research from the country’s prestigious Tsinghua and Peking universities, the China Academy of Environmental Planning and other government-backed institutes represents the latest lobbying efforts by some Chinese experts to cap coal consumption, the report said. But this is a difficult task, as the country relies on the fuel for nearly 70 per cent of its energy. Tiny particulate pollutants, especially those smaller than 2.5 micrograms (known as PM2.5), were linked to 670,000 premature deaths from four diseases – strokes, lung cancer, coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – in China in 2012, Teng said. Li Guoxing , from Peking University’s School of Public Health, said the full impact of coal use was still underestimated as the study did not take into account medical costs associated with other pollution-induced diseases such as asthma.

“The health cost (of the study) is only based on the premature death figures due to the limitations of our research data. It could be way higher if we also include medical costs for other chronic illnesses.” The study found that in 2012, more than 70 per cent of the population was exposed to annual PM2.5 pollution levels higher than 35 micrograms per cubic metre, the country’s benchmark for healthy air quality.

The World Health Organisation sets its PM2.5 safety limit at an annual concentration of 10mcg/cubic metre. That class of particulate was officially recognised as a human carcinogen last year by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, especially its link to lung cancer and a heightened risk of bladder cancer.

PTI

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