Washington: A new study of China has revealed that high level of air pollution, in the form of particulates produced by burning coal, significantly shortens the lives of people exposed to it.
According to the report co-authored by an MIT economist, 500 million Chinese who live north of the Huai River are set to lose an aggregate 2.5 billion years of life expectancy due to the extensive use of coal to power boilers for heating throughout the region.
Michael Greenstone, the 3M Professor of Environmental Economics at MIT, said that every additional 100 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter in the atmosphere lowers life expectancy at birth by three years.
The research stems from a free-coal policy of China which provided coal for the fuel boilers to the people living north of the Huai River to stay warm in winters.
The researchers found a sharp difference in mortality statistics from 1991 to 2000 attributable to cardio-respiratory illnesses.
Greenstone said he hopes the finding will have a policy impact not only in China, but also in other rapidly growing countries that are increasing their consumption of coal.