NICOLE HAO | EPOCH TIMES
New research conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has concluded that two air pollutants, PM2.5, and ground-level ozone, are responsible for the annual deaths of 1.1 million people in China and economic damages worth 267 billion yuan ($38.8 billion).
Air pollution also destroys 20 million metric tons of Chinese crops, the study said.
Among the estimated yearly deaths are about 1,000 people living in Hong Kong. Crops affected by the pollution include soybeans, corn, rice, and wheat.
“This is a fairly large and significant figure considering that it amounts to about 0.7 percent of national GDP,” said Steve Yim Hung-lam, the lead investigator and assistant professor in the geography & resources management department of CUHK.
PM2.5 is a type of respirable particulate with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, that is, around 3 percent the width of a human hair. They are produced by burning coal.
Due to their size, PM2.5 particles lodge accumulate in the lungs and bloodstream, where they are often responsible for DNA mutation, heart attacks, respiratory problems, and premature death.
The average concentration of PM2.5 in Chinese cities is 48 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg) of air, more than twice the average of 19 mcg of PM2.5 in 2,626 cities around the world.
Ground-level ozone, produced by fossil fuel combustion, is an increasing problem in China and Hong Kong. It causes respiratory and heart problems and hinders photosynthesis in plants.
This June, the regional governments of Hong Kong, Macao, and Guangdong Province released a joint report saying that in the past six years, ozone concentrations in the southern Chinese coastal region rose by 16 percent year on year and reached a new high in 2017.
In December 2013, Chen Zhu, former Chinese minister of health, published an article on The Lancet in which he said that 350,000 to 500,000 Chinese died every year because of severe air pollution. Chen wrote that air pollution was the “the fourth biggest threat to the health of Chinese people,” following heart disease, poor diet, and smoking.
In recent years, in addition to neighboring countries like Japan, Korea, or Taiwan, even the western United States has been receiving pollutants from China. Rob Schmitz of NPR cited scientists as saying that “Asian air pollution contributed as much as 65 percent of an increase in Western ozone in recent years.”
Stephanie Ewing, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of California, reported in 2017 that “29 percent of the pollution in the San Francisco Bay Area comes from China.”
The Chinese regime often downplays the severity of local air pollution, so the U.S. Embassy in Beijing began providing real-time PM 2.5 index in 2008.