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Air pollution regulations over last decade in Chinese city has halved health costs

Air pollution regulations over the last decade in Taiyuan, China, have substantially improved the health of people living there, accounting for a greater than 50% reduction in costs associated with loss of life and disability between 2001 and 2010, according to researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) at the Mailman School of Public Health, the Shanxi Medical University, the Center of Diseases Control and Prevention of Taiyuan Municipality, and Shanghai Fudan University School of Public Health.

The study is the first to document the health and economic benefits of policies to reduce the burden of air pollution in a highly polluted area of China, and provides a model to measure how policies to improve air quality can protect human health. Results appear in an open access paper in the journal Environment International.

Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province, is a major center in China for energy production and metallurgical industries. To combat air pollution, the Shanxi Provincial Government implemented many new environmental policies and regulations. Between 2000 and 2012, these included mandating the closure of many polluting sources, auditing companies that produced large amounts of toxic and hazardous materials, setting pollutant emissions standards, and promoting energy efficiency and pollution reduction. As a result, concentrations of particulate matter (PM10) declined by more than half, from 196 µg/m3 in 2001 to 89 µg/m3 in 2010, as measured at eight sites throughout the city.

Reductions in particulate matter between 2001 and 2010 were associated with 2,810 fewer premature deaths, 31,810 fewer hospital admissions, 141,457 fewer outpatient visits, 969 fewer ER visits, and 951 fewer cases of bronchitis. The team estimated that there were more than 30,000 fewer DALYs—disability-adjusted life years, a standard measure of the loss of healthy years—attributed to air pollution in Taiyuan in 2010 compared to 2001. The cost of premature death due to air pollution decreased by 3.83 billion Yuan, or approximately $621 million.

Particulate matter is released by coal-burning plants and other sources. These small particles can lodge themselves deeply in human lungs, and are associated with heart and lung conditions and premature death.

Our results suggest that the air quality improvement from 2001 to 2010 resulted in substantial health benefits. In fact, the health and financial impacts of air pollution could potentially be greater than those reported due to our selection of only a few health outcomes that could be quantitatively estimated and translated into monetary values.

—lead investigator Deliang Tang, DrPH, Mailman School of Public Health

The study builds on similar research from CCCEH in China, showing improvements in air quality were linked with improved childhood developmental scores.

Over the last ten years, our research in two Chinese cities have demonstrated that strong government policies to reduce air pollution can result in substantial health benefits for children and adults. These findings make the argument for stronger and broader regulations in Chinese cities where air pollution remains a serious health problem.

—Frederica Perera, PhD, director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health

According to the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, only three of 74 cities the government monitors meet minimum air standards. In March, Premier Li Kequiang announced that the country would “declare war against pollution,” by reducing particulate matter and closing outdated industrial plants.

Support for the study was provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Schmidt Foundation, China National Sciences Foundation, and Shanxi Medical University.

Additional authors include Jiesheng Nie and Qiao Niu from Shanxi Medical University School of Public Health; Cuicui Wang, Tenjie Chen, Haidong Kan, and Bingheng Chen from Shanghai Fudan University School of Public Health; and Baoxin Zhao and Yanping Zhang from Taiyuan CDC.


  • Deliang Tang, Cuicui Wang, Jiesheng Nie, Renjie Chen, Qiao Niu, Haidong Kan, Bingheng Chen, Frederica Perera (2014) “Health benefits of improving air quality in Taiyuan, China,” Environment International, Volume 73, Pages 235-242 doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.07.016



That's a nice improvement, imagine I think that here in montreal it's polluted but nothing compared to china where many Chinese wear mask. Im glad that they reduced particulate by 50%. Probably they use less coal and more nat gas instead.

Please update your big suv and replace it by a small car. We can also do a strike where we don't buy any new cars and wait for manufacturers to install nat gas tanks in cars and that they build an nat gas infrastructure. That way lower pollution and lower fuel cost.


Anti-regulation posters please take note.

USA also reduced road traffic fatalities, per passenger miles, by almost 50% in the last 20 years or so with improved safety regulations.

Lung cancers is another examples.

Many current very serious illnesses could also be reduced by 50+% with more adequate health regulations.



Driving small cars doesn't mean less pollution. An average go-kart emits many, many more times the harmful pollutants than any large truck or SUV does.


No one is anti regulation. The crowd you are referring to are anti-NEEDLESS [regulations and/or regulatory details].



Unfortunately, for too many posters, all regulations are against free enterprise evolution and reduce USA's competitive efforts. The same people easily forget about the negative effects of the $$T hidden away in tax free paradise or in places without regulations.



This is because most people, on either side the the argument, aren't deeply involved in the "industry".

We see this on both sides, especially the "regulate everything to death" crowd. At some point, as a society, we need to declare victory, and with regards to harmuful automotive regulations, that "victory" point was right before the insane NOx regs came into affect in 2010(ish).

These regs that have essentially killed the diesel engine due to the necessity of urea-SCR systems. Notice how few diesel-hybrids there are... cost of needless aftertreatment.


Logic would say...if you can't make it run clean and quiet, don't build it.... It is common sense, isn't it?

Why are very noisy Harley Davidsons and noisy polluting lawn mowers allowed in towns and cities? It is not logical (except in Detroit City).

Why don't we put an end to that type of nuisance?

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