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China's noxious air 'as deadly as smoking': study

A new study of 31 Chinese cities says 260,000 premature deaths are linked to air pollution, nearly the same figure as fatalities from smoking

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(Image by Yang Di / Greenpeace

Around a quarter of a million people in some of China’s major cities could face premature death because of high levels of air pollution, according to a forecast by Peking University for Greenpeace based on 2013 data.

In the 31 provincial capitals on average 90 out of every 100,000 people could die prematurely every year as a result of high levels of fine particulate in the air, Greenpeace said.

The study concludes that one out of every seven deaths in the cities is because of  air pollution, making early deaths from fine particulate matter as risky as smoking.

However, if all 31 cities considered in the study were to apply national air quality standards, the number of deaths caused by air pollution as a result of 2013 levels would be cut by about 41 premature deaths per 100,000 people each year, the study said.

This would equate to 100,000 lives per year being saved if cities meet 2030 air quality targets.

Figures from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection released earlier this week showed that just 8 out of 74 cities surveyed had met air quality targets, just five more than last year, when premier Li Keqiang announced a war on pollution. 

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