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Many cities and countries have problems with air pollution. But the extensive burning of coal in China has caused extreme air problems. And a researcher who has studied the problem estimates that the bad Chinese air may have cut the life expectancy of 500 million of its citizens by a collective 2.5 billion years.
The scientist bases his findings on the fact that people who live in the coal-burning area live significantly shorter lives than folks in a comparable area who use much less coal.
“We can now say with more confidence that long-run exposure to pollution, especially particulates, has dramatic consequences for life expectancy,” says researcher Michael Greenstone, a professor of environmental economics at MIT.
The study also notes that very additional 100 micrograms of particulate matter floating in a cubic meter of the air we breathe lowers life expectancy at birth by three years.
“What (our) paper helps reveal is that there may be immediate, local reasons for China and other developing countries to rely less on fossil fuels,” Greenstone says.