Claim: Chinese air pollution linked to respiratory and cardiovascular deaths

Chinese air is bad, but it kills no one.

A woman wearing a mask walk through a street covered by dense smog in Harbin, northern China, Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Visibility shrank to less than half a football field and small-particle pollution soared to a record 40 times higher than an international safety standard in one northern Chinese city as the region entered its high-smog season. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

This study, which claims to be the largest study of PM2.5, has many methodological problems (e.g., no exposure data, failure to account for PM2.5 exposure from smoking, faulty/weak/inconsistent statistics) and even honesty problems (e.g., no clinical research shows PM2.5 kills). You can read more about these sorts of problems in “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA” (Amazon | Signed copy from JunkScience.com Store)

But here, the study authors debunk their own work:

If PM2.5 killed, it would kill everywhere — not only in certain areas — Cf., gravity.

The media release is below. The study is here.

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Chinese air pollution linked to respiratory and cardiovascular deaths
AMERICAN THORACIC SOCIETY

Feb. 10, 2017–In the largest epidemiological study conducted in the developing world, researchers found that as exposures to fine particulate air pollution in 272 Chinese cities increase, so do deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

The researchers reported their results in “Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Daily Mortality: A Nationwide Analysis in 272 Chinese Cities,” published online ahead of print in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

“Fine particulate [PM2.5] air pollution is one of the key public health concerns in developing countries including China, but the epidemiological evidence about its health effects is scarce,” said senior study author Maigeng Zhou, PhD, deputy director of the National Center for Chronic and Non-communicable Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “A new monitoring network allowed us to conduct a nationwide study to evaluate short-term associations between PM2.5 and daily cause-specific mortality in China.”

The researchers found: * The average annual exposure to PM2.5 in the Chinese cities was 56 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3)–well above the World Health Organization air quality guidelines of 10 μg/m3. * Each 10 μg/m3 increase in air pollution was associated with a 0.22 percent increase in mortality from all non-accident related causes. * Each 10 μg/m3 increase in air pollution was associated with a 0.29 percent increase in all respiratory mortality and a 0.38 percent increase in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) mortality. * Mortality was significantly higher among people age 75 and older and among people with lower levels of education. * The association between PM2.5 levels and mortality was stronger in cities with higher average annual temperatures.

The researchers speculate that differences in educational attainment may result in environmental health inequalities and access to health care that affect mortality. In warmer cities, the authors hypothesize residents may spend more time outdoors and open windows, increasing their exposure to PM2.5.

The researchers said their study suggests a weaker association between increases in PM2.5 and mortality than studies conducted in Europe and North America. They suggest a number of possible explanations for this difference, including that in most Chinese cities there was a plateauing of mortality at the highest levels of pollution and the components of PM2.5 pollution in China may be less toxic than the components in Europe and North America. Crustal dust from arid lands and construction make up more PM2.5 pollution in China than it does in Europe and North America.

In 2013 China began introducing PM2.5 monitoring in urban areas. The current study analyzed available data between 2013-15. For nearly half the cities in the study, there was only one year of PM2.5 data available, and the authors note that a limitation of their study is that it does not look at the cumulative effect of PM2.5 over many years.

“Our findings may be helpful to formulate public health policies and ambient air quality standards in developing countries to reduce the disease burden associated with PM2.5 air pollution,” said study co-author Haidong Kan, MD, professor of public health at Fudan University in China. “Further massive investigations, especially looking at the long-term effect studies, are needed to confirm our results and to identify the most toxic components of PM2.5 in China.”

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7 thoughts on “Claim: Chinese air pollution linked to respiratory and cardiovascular deaths”

  1. There is no secret regarding how to reduce air pollution. China knows that; are they allowing it to continue on purpose?

    “Those who are badly off must go there.” “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.” “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

  2. One of the hardest things for any ideologue to do is to admit to having erred. The difficulty increases significantly with the amount of money invested in the error. “Air pollution control” is a multi-billion dollar industry world-wide.

  3. If I read this correctly, each doubling of the PM 2.5 concentration results in less than 0.003% increase in mortality.

    What is their margin of error? Sounds statistically insignificant me.

  4. jmjral, there’s the rub. The Sheeple know nothing of statistics, especially margin of error. If this was a rigorous study there’d be a solid matrix of numerical data along with the confidence factor and error bars.

    If you take that 0.003% increase factor and double the PM2.5 concentration TEN TIMES OVER you get an increase in mortality of about 3% for 1000 times more dust in the air. I suspect you could actually chew the air at that concentration *grin*.

    Then there’s the lack of homogeneity across the country in results. There are racial differences from north to south in China, but with modern movement of people I do not see any data on racial response rates versus racial concentrations, etc., etc.

    This whole “study” is looking more amateurish at every turn.

  5. Let me get this straight. If everyone is exposed to air pollution and some die from respiratory and cardiovascular disease, there is a link? What about those who are not exposed to air pollution and still die from the same causes? Fourth hand, fifth hand, sixth hand exposure? Maybe they get from reading about air pollution?

  6. If activists are so concerned about the deadly effects of particulate pollution, why don’t they tell the “victims” that those ill fitted paper and cloth masks do nothing to block it?

  7. Pictures of “dense smog” by the lying media and the alarmist propagandists are in fact of fog. The same place in a sunny day would show a pristine air. Were it particulate smog, it would have been every day.

    The irony is anywhere in the world, life expectancy is easily verifiable to be the longest in big cities, where pollution is supposed to be the “deadliest”! Another inconvenient truth for the pollution charlatans.

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