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Fletcher in the News

Prof. Kelly Sims Gallagher on the Health Care Costs of Air Pollution in China

Kelly Sims Gallagher

MIT: China's pollution costs $112B in annual health care

China's unprecedented growth is carrying a steadily steeper price tag as its air pollution hikes the nation's health care costs, finds a new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although China has made substantial progress in reducing its air pollution, MIT researchers say its economic impact has jumped from $22 billion in 1975 to $112 billion in 2005. The costs result from both lost labor and the increased need for health care, because ozone and particulates in air can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

The study "finds that the damages are even greater than previously thought," said Kelly Sims Gallagher, an associate professor of energy and environmental policy at Tufts University's Fletcher School, in the MIT announcement.

The researchers calculated these long-term impacts using atmospheric and economic modeling tools, which were especially important when it came to assessing the cumulative impact of ozone. They said China has only recently begun to monitor ozone , and it's become the world's largest emitter of mercury, carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

In the 1980s, they said China's particulate-matter concentrations were at least 10 to 16 times higher than the World Health Organization's annual guidelines. Even after major improvements, by 2005, they said the concentrations were still five times higher than what is considered safe and led to 656,000 premature deaths in China each year.

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