JOURNAL ARTICLE

Ambient air pollution, climate change, and population health in China

Haidong Kan, Renjie Chen, Shilu Tong
Environment International 2012, 42: 10-9
21440303
As the largest developing country, China has been changing rapidly over the last three decades and its economic expansion is largely driven by the use of fossil fuels, which leads to a dramatic increase in emissions of both ambient air pollutants and greenhouse gases (GHGs). China is now facing the worst air pollution problem in the world, and is also the largest emitter of carbon dioxide. A number of epidemiological studies on air pollution and population health have been conducted in China, using time-series, case-crossover, cross-sectional, cohort, panel or intervention designs. The increased health risks observed among Chinese population are somewhat lower in magnitude, per amount of pollution, than the risks found in developed countries. However, the importance of these increased health risks is greater than that in North America or Europe, because the levels of air pollution in China are very high in general and Chinese population accounts for more than one fourth of the world's totals. Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that climate change has already affected human health directly and indirectly in China, including mortality from extreme weather events; changes in air and water quality; and changes in the ecology of infectious diseases. If China acts to reduce the combustion of fossil fuels and the resultant air pollution, it will reap not only the health benefits associated with improvement of air quality but also the reduced GHG emissions. Consideration of the health impact of air pollution and climate change can help the Chinese government move forward towards sustainable development with appropriate urgency.

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