We all know that pollution in China is bad, but we didn’t know it was this bad. A new study has found air pollution is killing about 4,000 people per day in China. Using newly available data, physicists at Berkeley Earth, a non-profit climate research organization, calculated that about 17 percent of all deaths in China are from heart and lung disease and other problems caused by the incredibly polluted air. Pollution is not just limited to major cities, either. The study found 38 percent of Chinese people live with daily pollution that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates “unhealthy”.
The study found China’s deadly air kills more than 1.4 million people per year; in the U.S., worst-case estimates show that about 200,000 people are killed by air pollution per year. The team also found 99.9 percent of the eastern half of China breathes a higher concentration of small particulate matter than people in the city of Madera, California, where the highest annual average small particulate haze in the U.S. is found. In other words, almost everyone in China is breathing more damaging air than the worst air in the U.S.
Related: London air pollution responsible for 9,500 deaths each year
The Berkley team analyzed data from a four-month period from April 5, 2014 to August 5, 2014 to create computer model calculations that estimate heart, lung and stroke deaths from different types of pollutants. Electric power plants, industrial facilities, automobiles, biomass burning, and fossil fuels used for heating are all on the list of contributing factors to China’s air pollution. The tiny particulates that escape from these sources can enter the lungs and bloodstream and cause a range of problems, from asthma to heart disease.
Lead image via Erik Charlton, factory image via Leo Fung, Shanghai image via Peter Dowley