Pollution caused by coal triggered an estimated 670,000 premature deaths in China in 2012, a study by top universities and a government department has revealed, a shocking reminder of the way industrial smog is impacting the second largest economy of the world.
At least 70 percent of China experienced deadly smog that year and people were exposed to 10 times more pollution than World Health Organisation’s recommended annual concentration of 10mcg/cubic metre of PM2.5.
The study, accessed by the South China Morning Post, was based on research conducted by China’s elite Peking and Tsinghua universities and the China Academy of Environmental Planning.
Damage to the environment and health added up to 260 Yuan (Rs 2600) for each tone of coal produced and used in 2012, Teng Fei, associate professor at Tsinghua University told SCMP.
“With existing environmental fees and taxes of between 30 (Rs 300) to 50 Yuan (Rs 500) for each tonne of coal, the country's current pricing system has largely failed to reflect the true costs," Teng told the Hong Kong-based newspaper.
According to the research, the pollutants were primarily linked to four diseases – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, strokes and coronary heart diseases.
Pollutants from coal also contaminated ground water and caused occupational diseases among industrial workers.
Worryingly, according to Li Guoxing, from Peking University's School of Public Health, the study is incomplete in collating the full damage as it is did not take into account medical costs connected other diseases like asthma.
China is the world’s largest carbon polluter though according to the International Energy Agency report, quoted recently in the Nature magazine said that China accounts for 56 percent of the US 250 billion worth renewable energy sector.
But China’s dependence on coal in its hyper-development drive over the last three decades has been leaving its damning impact on the country.
According to the study, in 2012, some 157 million people in China lived in areas where the annual PM2.5 concentration was higher than 100mcg/cubic metre - 10 times the WHO's recommendation.