Winner – Best News Website or Mobile Service | Asian Digital Media Awards 2019

Cleaner air could save 3 million early deaths in China each year - study

Experts find that adopting and enforcing tighter air quality standards in China will bring about tremendous public health benefits.

China could prevent three million premature deaths a year if it enforced tighter air quality standards in accordance with United Nations guidelines, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, examined the mortality levels and concentrations of the tiny particles known as PM10 in the air in 38 large Chinese cities between January 2010 and June 2013.

It found the average PM10 level recorded in these cities during the period was 92.9 micrograms per cubic meter, much higher than the World Health Organisation’s standard at 20 micrograms.

The researchers, led by Maigeng Zhou at the Beijing-based Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said over 350,000 deaths were recorded in the 38 cities in this period.

Based on this, they said China would save three million premature deaths each year if its PM10 level was lowered to the WHO’s recommended level.

“This number is likely to be a lower bound estimate of the total number of deaths related to air pollution because the air pollution effect can be larger in rural areas and PM10 is more detrimental to human health in the long run,” they said.

“Our findings suggest that adopting and enforcing tighter air quality standards in China will bring about tremendous public health benefits.”

PM10, particulate matter produced by traffic and industry, can enter the lungs and bloodstream. Another hazardous airborne particle is the PM2.5, which is smaller and lighter.

China has been waging a war on pollution but its environment minister said last week it still has work to do and needed to get companies and local authorities to toe the line.

Pollution alerts are common in northern China, especially during bitterly cold winters when energy demand, much of it met by coal, rises.

This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

Thanks for reading to the end of this story!

We would be grateful if you would consider joining as a member of The EB Circle. This helps to keep our stories and resources free for all, and it also supports independent journalism dedicated to sustainable development. For a small donation of S$60 a year, your help would make such a big difference.

Find out more and join The EB Circle

blog comments powered by Disqus

Most popular

View all news

Industry Spotlight

View all

Feature Series

View all
Asia Pacific's Hub For Collaboration On Sustainable Development
An Eco-Business initiative
The SDG Co