400,000 People In China Die Prematurely From Air Pollution Annually: Expert
Beijing, China (AFP) Oct 25, 2005
More than 400,000 people in China die prematurely annually from air pollution, according to an unpublished study by the research arm of the government's environmental protection agency, AFP learned Tuesday.
The study, conducted by the Chinese Academy on Environmental Planning in 2003, found that 300,000 people died from outdoor pollution, while 111,000 people died from indoor pollution each year, said Wang Jin'nan.
Wang is a chief engineer of the academy, which is part of the State Environmental Protection Administration, and is also chairman of the Chinese Society for Environmental Economics.
"It's a conservative figure. The real figure could be higher," Wang told AFP on the sidelines of an international air pollution conference.
The conference was organized by SEPA as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency, the environmental directorate of the European Commission and the Italian environment ministry.
The figures have not been made available to the general public, Wang said, because governments, especially at the provincial level, do not want bad publicity about their jurisdictions.
China, while pledging to step up measures to fight pollution, does not reveal statistics on the impact of pollution on health.
The figures in the study reflect World Bank estimates that 400,000 people in China die each year from air pollution-related illnesses, mainly lung and heart diseases.
Wang said outdoor pollution in China is mainly generated by coal-fired power plants, China's main source of energy, as well as polluting factories, and the increasing number of vehicles.
Indoor pollution comes from the burning of coal, wood or agricultural waste for heating and cooking, he said. State media reports have also cited studies showing material used for construction, remodeling and furniture-making in China's many new apartments were harmful.
The academy's research also found that one-third of China's urban dwellers live in cities with level two or higher pollution.
Level two is considered harmful to health, while level three is considered "very dangerous", Wang said.
Some 116 million people live in cities with level three pollution, said Wang.
In a survey of 341 major cities in China in 2003, the academy found that 27 percent suffered from serious pollution, while 32 percent had light pollution and 41 percent enjoyed "good" air quality.
The most polluted cities are in the northern and western areas of China, including those in the coal-producing Shanxi province, and cities surrounded by mountains, including the capital Beijing.
Wang said academics hope China will eventually have a more open attitude about pollution statistics as an informed public could bring about faster changes.
"These figures all exist, but the local governments do not want us to reveal them," Wang said. "Public pressure will be good for environmental protection."
On Monday, Chinese and overseas experts at the three-day conference agreed China's rapid industrialization is leading to increasing environmental damage, with air pollution likely to rise five-fold in 15 years at the current rate.
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China Warns Of Five-Fold Increase In Air Pollution In 15 Years
Beijing (AFP) Oct 24, 2005
China's rapid economic growth and industrialization is posing a major challenge to the environment with air pollution likely to rise five-fold in 15 years, officials warned Monday.
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