BEIJING, China, Jan. 8, 2014—Pollution in China kills between 350 and 500 thousand people each year. This was revealed by an article in the British scientific journal The Lancet co-authored by Chen Zhu, president of the Medical Association of China, formerly the Minister for Health under President Hu Jintao. In the text, the authors admit that “despite best efforts, it will be difficult to control the phenomenon, since there are huge sources of pollution and of very different kinds.”
The main cause of the blanket of smog is PM 2.5 (particulate matter —Airborne dust 2.5 micrometers per cubic meter) caused by industrial production and intensified by the arrival of winter. The cold causes the ignition of millions of radiators, which in turn increase the consumption of the coal burned in power plants. In Shanghai last month the levels of PM2.5 exceeded 600 micrometers per cubic meter, while in Beijing they have touched 473: the World Health Organization limit for healthy air is 25 micrometers per meter cubed.
The Beijing government has allocated 1.7 trillion Yuan (216 billion euro) to reducing emissions from power stations and moderating the effects of traffic. The head of the environmental protection in Beijing, Wang Bin, argues that “soon” Beijing will follow the road of London, Los Angeles and Tokyo and become a “green city.”
Pan Xiaochuan, a professor at the School of Public Health, Beijing University, is less optimistic: “From the data I have, the air pollution in Beijing has worsened in recent years. Particulates, especially the famous PM10 and PM2, 5, which are smaller and more dangerous, have increased.”
One of the most important Chinese environmental scientists, Professor Zhang Shiqui, describes the issue as “a real challenge for China, which must try to balance economic development, the war on poverty and the protection of health. It will be difficult to get citizens to change their habits of consumption, just as it is difficult to convert cars to a more eco-compatible product.” (AsiaNews / Agencies)