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REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 43-50

Ongoing progress in cleaning China's air: A novel outlook into pollution


1 Department of Neurosurgery, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, USA
2 Center for Research on Environmental Disease, Luhe Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China
3 Department of Neurosurgery, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, USA; Center for Research on Environmental Disease, Luhe Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China

Correspondence Address:
Xiaokun Geng
No. 82, South Xinhua Road, Tongzhou District, Beijing 101149, China

Zhili Ji
No. 82, South Xinhua Road, Tongzhou District, Beijing 101149, China

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/2468-5690.185286

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Over the past 30 years, particulate matter (PM) air pollution has progressively worsened in many of China's urban and suburban areas. This review provides a current picture of the air pollution in China with an emphasis on the history of PM pollution, policies and reduction goals, recent improvements, and known adverse health effects of PM exposure. Several studies have provided the analyses of current PM pollution levels in cities across China using satellite data and air-monitoring stations. These analyses are consistent with the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) 2015 air pollution report, which concluded that only 8 of 74 (10.8%) cities met the Chinese standards for safe annual average PM 2.5 exposure (35 μg/m 3 ). Even fewer cities met the World Health Organization PM 2.5 guideline of 10 μg/m 3 . The Government of China has acknowledged the public health threat of PM pollution and enacted higher standards and goals through the 12 th five-year plan (FYP) (2010), National Ambient Air Quality Standard (2012), the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan (2013), and the 13 th FYP (2016). A comparative analysis between 2010 and 2015 satellite data shows that PM pollution decreased by around 17% during this period. This improvement is corroborated by the MEP's report on the State of the Environment in 2014 and the global burden of disease report in 2013. Despite these changes, PM pollution remains a substantial public health challenge. In 2010, an estimated 1.235 million deaths in China were attributed to PM air pollution. Long-term exposure to PM pollution increases the rates of cardiovascular, metabolic, and respiratory mortality. In particular, PM exposure increases the morbidity of respiratory illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and lower respiratory infections (LRIs). Elevated levels of PM have been found to increase the incidence of all of the top five causes of death in 2012: Ischemic heart disease, stroke, COPD, LRI, and lung cancer. In addition, higher PM pollution decreases average birth weight, raises incidence of preterm birth, and increases the prevalence of Type II diabetes mellitus across the population. With the knowledge of these serious health consequences, China must enact greater measures to reduce dangerous PM levels.


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