Toxic Air Pollution in China Taking its Toll, Killing People Daily

The toxic air pollution in China is taking its toll and killing nearly 4,000 people daily, as per the research paper published in the journal PLOS One.

Richard Muller of University of California, Berkeley, who co-authored this paper described the air over China to resemble a place where every person, be it man, woman or child puffed one and half cigarettes each hour! Muller and Robert Rhode, the other co-author of the paper do research work for Berkeley Earth, an organization committed to collating data regarding the global climate.


The paper is a result of a study done on the pollution that clogs China and investigates the ill-effects of this hazard on human health. The startling results included the fact that air pollution in the country killed 1.6 million citizens, annually, which translates to about 1/6th of all premature deaths. The data for the analysis was taken from three sources including two third-party sources and China’s own air quality reporting system.

Although other earlier reports confirmed the death tolls due to air pollution to be in the range of 1-2 million per year, this is the first time, the report was based on the real time data from country’s monitoring system. Although the quality of air is different during different times of the month and the day, the study said that 92% of China’s population breathes polluted air for more than 120 hours every year.

The paper of Muller and Rhode compared the pollution levels of Fresno-Madera, California, which records the highest pollution levels in the US as claimed by the American Lung Association. Here, the residents experience about 47 ‘unhealthy’ days annually. This means that nearly every Chinese breathes highly polluted air that is far worse than the most contaminated region in the US.

Toxic air pollution

The pollutants that were isolated included the worst ones such as pieces of dust, soot and smoke, all of which have the power to infiltrate the lungs and damage them irretrievably. Although most of the pollutants were from fossil fuels, it was a surprising discovery that the origins were not from the most expected regions. For example, while a lot of focus was on Beijing, the country’s capital, the city’s pollution was found to come primarily from the southwest regions.

The data from the three sources was then transferred and run through a model platform of the World Health Organization that connects air pollution to deaths caused by fatal health issues like stroke and lung problems. This framework confirmed an annual number of 1.6 million deaths which translates to about 4,000 people dying every day due to breathing in bad air!

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