Reductions in Air Pollution in China Saves Hundreds of Thousands of Lives Since 1990

The megacities of China have seen a remarkable fall in most markers for air pollution, as well as in associated deaths.

According to a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded study from the journal Lancet, across all 33 of the Middle Kingdom’s provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities there have been reductions in air particulates related to fuel-burning and cooking oil, as well as in ozone depleting substances.

By the numbers, the fall has been around 9% in air particulates since 1990.

Given that 81% of Chinese citizens still live in areas where air pollution exceeds acceptable levels under WHO Air Quality Guidelines, this reduction of particulates equates to a life-saving change for people across the country.

In 2017 compared in 1990, 60.6% fewer people have been dying per year based on a broadly defined set of conditions resulting from air pollution—translating to hundreds of thousands of lives.

One of the largest contributors to air pollution in China is from personal households: wood and coal burning for cooking purposes takes its toll, and currently represents a larger share of pollution after years of substantial public investment in the clean energy sector, and in advisory boards that address particulate matter pollution generated by power generation.

Lancet cites a recent analysis of public health and pollution policy strategies in 74 key Chinese cities, and averaged the declines in airborne particulate matter at around 33.3% from 2013-2017.

The unique policy structure of federal and municipal government allows greater flexibility for pollution control, and a 2019-2030 Healthy China Action Plan is already being implemented to control the use of solid fuels in household cooking—which is one of the largest sources of airborne pollution in the country.

This initiative will hopefully save even more lives and lead to cleaner and cleaner air for the most populous nation on Earth.