Air Pollution in China Kills Millions Annually, Study Reveals

Nearly 40 percent of people in China are regularly exposed to air that would be considered unhealthy by American and European standards. Continue reading →

Air pollution is responsible for 1.6 million deaths in China each year, according to a new study from nonprofit Berkeley Earth. The study names heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and asthma as leading causes of pollution-related deaths.

Researchers found that nearly 40 percent of Chinese citizens are regularly exposed to air that would be considered unhealthy by American and European standards. The highest concentrations of unhealthy air are found around Beijing, Shijiazhuang and Tangshan in northeastern China.

7 Of 10 Most Air-Polluted Cities Are In China

Interestingly, the study found that much of the air pollution in Beijing originated in other industrial areas. The non-local pollution could make it "difficult" to improve air quality leading up to the 2022 Olympics.

"Air pollution is the greatest environmental disaster in the world today," Berkeley Earth Scientific Director and study coauthor Richard Muller said in a news release. "When I was last in Beijing, pollution was at the hazardous level; every hour of exposure reduced my life expectancy by 20 minutes. It's as if every man, women, and child smoked 1.5 cigarettes each hour,".

The study will be published in the upcoming version of the journal PLOS One.

This blog originally appeared on DSCOVRD.

Visitors to Beijing's Tiananmen Square battle heavy smog on Jan. 31, 2013 (left), and breathe easy the next day, Feb. 1, 2013.

On the left, commuters on Beijing's second ring road experience heavy smog on Jan. 30, 2013. On the right, the same road on Feb. 1, 2013.

The Forbidden City in Beijing from the historic Jingshan Park (left) on Jan. 30, 2013, and during clear weather (right) the very next day.

Guotai Chambers (left) on Jan. 31, 2013, and the same shot the next day (right).

A security guard stands in Jingshan park in Beijing during heavy pollution (left) on Jan. 30, 2013. The park is clear on Feb. 1, 2013 (right).

This combination of photos shows a section of the Beijing skyline (left) during heavily polluted weather on January 30, 2013, and during clear weather the next day (right).