Air pollution kills thousands every year in China

I came across a very disturbing fact via an article in the Financial Times. According to the World Bank, air and water pollution in Chinese large cities kill nearly 750.000 people every year.

The government of the People’s Republic of China asked that a third of the report was erased in order to avoid “public unrest“.

Among the twenty most polluted cities in the world, 16 are located in China. In this report, which can be downloaded via the Financial Times article, several things are worth mentioning. Following are some of the most interesting excerpts.

China is the world’s second largest energy consumer after the United States. Almost 68 percent of its energy comes from coal, much of which is burned in thermal power plants or in industrial boilers. This has led to continuously high levels of SO2 and particulate air pollution.

page 25

Note : SO2, or sulfur dioxide is according to Wikipedia “of significant environmental concern.” It is also a cause of acid rains. Wikipedia hence states that ” Acid rain occurs when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are emitted into the atmosphere, undergo chemical transformations, and are absorbed by water droplets in clouds.

But let’s get back to the WB report :

Total energy consumption in China increased by 70 percent between 2000 and 2005. Coal consumption accounted for 75 percent of this increase, while the fraction of energy consumption met by hydropower decreased during the 2001–05 period.

page 30

Energy consumption, especially coal consumption, is the main source of air pollutants such as particles, SO2, NO2 and CO in most cities of China. As the primary energy source, coal has accounted for about 65 to 70 percent (China Statistical Yearbook 2004) of total energy consumption in recent years, which has caused many environmental and human health problems. Crude oil consumption has been increasing because of the rapid expansion of the motor vehicle fleet in many cities.

page 42

The FT article also states the following :

Missing from this report are the research project’s findings that high air-pollution levels in Chinese cities is leading to the premature deaths of 350,000-400,000 people each year. A further 300,000 people die prematurely each year from exposure to poor air indoors, according to advisers, but little discussion of this issue survived in the report because it was outside the ambit of the Chinese ministries which sponsored the research.

Another 60,000-odd premature deaths were attributable to poor-quality water, largely in the countryside, from severe diarrhoea, and stomach, liver and bladder cancers.

The mortality information was “reluctantly” excised by the World Bank from the published report, according to advisers to the research project.

Well, I am just horrified by these figures. If it had been released by others institutions, I would have been doubtful, but the World Bank is not exactly an institution known for its jokes or argumentative flaws.

I indeed knew that pollution was a very important issue in the People’s Republic of China. I wrote articles about it for a while back already ( see links at the end of this article ). But, this report brings scientific data in abundance as well as figures.

Sources used for the writing of this article :

Further reading on air pollution in China from :

Edit on July, 3rd :

Articles en Français :

1 thought on “Air pollution kills thousands every year in China”

  1. nowadays there is too much pollution in the air. most of the pollution from the air comes from fossil fuels. maybe someday we would use less and less of fossil fuesl in favor of clean and renewable energy sources.

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