Chart Of The Week: China’s Pollution Crisis Is Worse Than Living In A Smoking Lounge

So it turns out that burning nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined is not good for public health.

“Beijing’s daily peak and average concentrations of PM2.5, the airborne particulate matter that raises risks for lung and heart diseases, as measured by the U.S. Embassy. The 2013 daily average was 194 micrograms per cubic meter, with an intraday peak of 886 on Jan. 12, the data show. By contrast, PM2.5 levels averaged 166.6 in 16 airport smoking lounges in the U.S.” (Via Bloomberg)

Significantly, though, as one Brigham Young University professor points out, “Unlike cigarette smoking, exposure to ambient air pollution is involuntary and ubiquitously effects entire populations.”

And that reminds me of the line from the Hitchock-esque movie, Diabolique, where a man says to the femme fatale as she lights up a cigarette, “Second-hand smoke kills, you know.” Blowing smoke in his face, she (Sharon Stone, of course) replies, “Not reliably.”


Living in Beijing kills far more reliably. Indeed, during the peak pollution weekend, “the number of emergency room patients with heart attacks roughly doubled” at one hospital.

A World Bank study performed with China’s national environmental agency, concluded “outdoor air pollution was already causing 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths a year. Indoor pollution contributed to the deaths of an additional 300,000 people, while 60,000 died from diarrhea, bladder and stomach cancer and other diseases that can be caused by water-borne pollution.”

And that was in 2007! One can only imagine what the deaths from pollution in China are now that it burns 40% more coal than it did 6 years ago