Environmental Health

MEP meeting

High-Level Meetings with Ministers Xie and Li

August 30, 2017

On August 4, China’s lead official on climate change, Minister XIE Zhenhua, hosted a research and policy consultation with Profs. Mike McELROY, Steve WOFSY, executive director Chris NIELSEN, and Project alumni Dr. ZHANG Hongjun (Holland & Knight, LLP) and Prof. LU Xi (Tsinghua University) at his offices in Beijing. Discussion topics included the state of U.S.-China engagement on climate and the growing role of subnational governments, disparate regional capacities for carbon control within China... Read more about High-Level Meetings with Ministers Xie and Li

Haikun Wang, Yanxu Zhang, Xi Lu, Weimo Zhu, Chris P. Nielsen, Jun Bi, and Michael B. McElroy. 2017. “Trade‐driven relocation of air pollution and health impacts in China.” Nature Communications, 8, 738. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Recent studies show that international trade affects global distributions of air pollution andpublic health. Domestic interprovincial trade has similar effects within countries, but has notbeen comprehensively investigated previously. Here we link four models to evaluate theeffects of both international exports and interprovincial trade on PM2.5pollution and publichealth across China. We show that 50–60% of China’s air pollutant emissions in 2007 wereassociated with goods and services consumed outside of the provinces where they wereproduced. Of an estimated 1.10 million premature deaths caused by PM2.5pollutionthroughout China, nearly 19% (208,500 deaths) are attributable to international exports. Incontrast, interprovincial trade leads to improved air quality in developed coastal provinceswith a net effect of 78,500 avoided deaths nationwide. However, both international exportand interprovincial trade exacerbate the health burdens of air pollution in China’s lessdeveloped interior provinces. Our results reveal trade to be a critical but largely overlookedconsideration in effective regional air quality planning for China.
Nan Zhong, Jing Cao, and Yuzhu Wang. 2017. “Traffic congestion, ambient air pollution and health: Evidence from driving restrictions in Beijing.” Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, 4, 3, Pp. 821–856. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Vehicles have recently overtaken coal to become the largest source of air pollution in urban China. Research on mobile sources of pollution has foundered due both to inaccessibility of Chinese data on health outcomes and strong identifying assumptions. To address these, we collect daily ambulance call data from the Beijing Emergency Medical Center and combine them with an idiosyncratic feature of a driving restriction policy in Beijing that references the last digit of vehicles’ license plate numbers. Because the number 4 is considered unlucky by many in China, it tends to be avoided on license plates. As a result, days on which the policy restricts license plates ending in 4 unintentionally allow more vehicles in Beijing. Leveraging this variation, we find that traffic congestion is indeed 22% higher on days banning 4 and that 24-hour average concentration of NO2 is 12% higher. Correspondingly, these short term increases in pollution increase ambulance calls by 12% and 3% for fever and heart related symptoms, while no effects are found for injuries. These findings suggest that traffic congestion has substantial health externalities in China but that they are also responsive to policy. 

Chris P Nielsen and Mun S Ho. 2007. “Summary for policy.” In Clearing the air: The health and economic damages of air pollution in China, edited by Mun S Ho and Chris P Nielsen. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

An interdisciplinary, quantitative assessment of the health and economic costs of air pollution in China, and of market-based policies to build environmental protection into economic development.

China's historic economic expansion is driven by fossil fuels, which increase its emissions of both local air pollutants and greenhouse gases dramatically. Clearing the Air is an innovative, quantitative examination of the national damage caused by China's degraded air quality, conducted in a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary U.S.-China collaboration. Its damage estimates are allocated by sector, making it possible for the first time to judge whether, for instance, power generation, transportation, or an unexpected source such as cement production causes the greatest environmental harm. Such objective analyses can reset policy priorities.

Clearing the Air uses this information to show how appropriate "green" taxes might not only reduce emissions and health damages but even enhance China's economic growth. It also shows to what extent these same policies could limit greenhouse gases, suggesting that wealthier nations have a responsibility to help China build environmental protection into its growth.

Clearing the Air is written for diverse readers, providing a bridge from underlying research to policy implications, with easily accessible overviews of issues and summaries of the findings for nonspecialists and policymakers followed by more specialized, interlinked studies of primary interest to scholars. Taken together, these analyses offer a uniquely integrated assessment that supports the book's economic and policy recommendations.

B.Y. Wang, Z.G. Peng, X.B. Zhang, Y. Xu, H.J. Wang, G. Allen, L.H. Wang, and X.P. Xu. 1999. “Particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and pulmonary function in never-smoking adults in Chongqing, China.” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health , 5, 1, Pp. 14-19. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Chongquing is one of the most polluted cities in China. To study the respiratory health effects of air pollution for this city, the authors monitored the ambient levels of particulate matter (PM2.5) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) in urban and suburban areas and performed pulmonary function testing on 1,075 adults 35 to 60 years of age who had never smoked and did not use coal stoves for cooking or heating. The mean concentration of SO2 in the urban areas (213 micrograms/m3) was twice as high as that in suburban areas (103 micrograms/m3). Mean PM2.5 levels were high in both urban (143 micrograms/m3) and suburban (139 micrograms/m3) areas. A generalized additive model was used to estimate the differences between the two areas in FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC%, with adjustment for potential confounding factors, including sex, age, height, education, passive smoking, and occupational exposures to dust, gas, or fumes. Estimated differences in FEV1 between the urban and suburban areas were 199 mL (SE = 50 mL) for men and 87 mL (SE = 30 mL) for women, both statistically significant. When the men and women were pooled, the estimated difference in FEV1 was 126 mL (SE = 27 mL). Similar trends were observed for FVC and FEV1/FVC%. After exclusion of 104 subjects with histories of occupational exposures to dust, gas, or fumes, the estimated difference was some-what smaller than that of the total samples. However, the effects on FEV1 and FEV1/FVC% remained significant for both men and women.
Yu Zhao, Michael B. McElroy, Jia Xing, Lei Duan, Chris P Nielsen, Yu Lei, and Jiming Hao. 2011. “Multiple effects and uncertainties of emission control policies in China: Public health, soil acidification, and global temperature.” Science of the Total Environment , 409, 24, Pp. 5177-5187. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Policies to control emissions of criteria pollutants in China may have conflicting impacts on public health, soil acidification, and climate. Two scenarios for 2020, a base case without anticipated control measures and a more realistic case including such controls, are evaluated to quantify the effects of the policies on emissions and resulting environmental outcomes. Large benefits to public health can be expected from the controls, attributed mainly to reduced emissions of primary PM and gaseous PM precursors, and thus lower ambient concentrations of PM2.5. Approximately 4% of all-cause mortality in the country can be avoided (95% confidence interval: 1–7%), particularly in eastern and north-central China, regions with large population densities and high levels of PM2.5. Surface ozone levels, however, are estimated to increase in parts of those regions, despite NOX reductions. This implies VOC-limited conditions. Even with significant reduction of SO2 and NOX emissions, the controls will not significantly mitigate risks of soil acidification, judged by the exceedance levels of critical load (CL). This is due to the decrease in primary PM emissions, with the consequent reduction in deposition of alkaline base cations. Compared to 2005, even larger CL exceedances are found for both scenarios in 2020, implying that PM control may negate any recovery from soil acidification due to SO2 reductions. Noting large uncertainties, current polices to control emissions of criteria pollutants in China will not reduce climate warming, since controlling SO2 emissions also reduces reflective secondary aerosols. Black carbon emission is an important source of uncertainty concerning the effects of Chinese control policies on global temperature change. Given these conflicts, greater consideration should be paid to reconciling varied environmental objectives, and emission control strategies should target not only criteria pollutants but also species such as VOCs and CO2.
Ying Zhou, Jonathan I Levy, John S Evans, and James K Hammitt. 2006. “The influence of geographic location on population exposure to emissions from power plants throughout China.” Environment International, 32, 3, Pp. 365-373. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This analysis seeks to evaluate the influence of emission source location on population exposure in China to fine particles and sulfur dioxide. We use the concept of intake fraction, defined as the fraction of material or its precursor released from a source that is eventually inhaled or ingested by a population. We select 29 power-plant sites throughout China and estimate annual average intake fractions at each site, using identical source characteristics to isolate the influence of geographic location. In addition, we develop regression models to interpret the intake fraction values and allow for extrapolation to other sites. To model the concentration increase due to emissions from selected power plants, we used a detailed long-range atmospheric dispersion model, CALPUFF. Primary fine particles have the highest average intake fraction (1 × 10− 5), followed by sulfur dioxide (5 × 10− 6), sulfate from sulfur dioxide (4 × 10− 6), and nitrate from nitrogen oxides (4 × 10− 6). For all pollutants, the intake fractions span approximately an order of magnitude across sites. In the regression analysis, the independent variables are meteorological proxies (such as climate region and precipitation) and population at various distances from the source. We find that population terms can explain a substantial percentage of variability in the intake fraction for all pollutants (R2 between 0.86 and 0.95 across pollutants), with a significant modifying influence of meteorological regime. Near-source population is more important for primary coarse particles while population at medium to long distance is more important for primary fine particles and secondary particles. A significant portion of intake fraction (especially for secondary particles and primary fine particles) occurs beyond 500 km of the source, emphasizing the need for detailed long-range dispersion modeling. These findings demonstrate that intake fractions for power plants in China can be estimated with reasonable precision and summarized using simple regression models. The results should be useful for informing future decisions about power-plant locations and controls.
Shuxiao Wang, Jiming Hao, Yongqi Lu, and Ji Li. 2007. “Local population exposure to pollutants from the major industrial sectors.” In Clearing the air: The health and economic damages of air pollution in China, edited by Mun S Ho and Chris P Nielsen. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

An interdisciplinary, quantitative assessment of the health and economic costs of air pollution in China, and of market-based policies to build environmental protection into economic development.

China's historic economic expansion is driven by fossil fuels, which increase its emissions of both local air pollutants and greenhouse gases dramatically. Clearing the Air is an innovative, quantitative examination of the national damage caused by China's degraded air quality, conducted in a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary U.S.-China collaboration. Its damage estimates are allocated by sector, making it possible for the first time to judge whether, for instance, power generation, transportation, or an unexpected source such as cement production causes the greatest environmental harm. Such objective analyses can reset policy priorities.

Clearing the Air uses this information to show how appropriate "green" taxes might not only reduce emissions and health damages but even enhance China's economic growth. It also shows to what extent these same policies could limit greenhouse gases, suggesting that wealthier nations have a responsibility to help China build environmental protection into its growth.

Clearing the Air is written for diverse readers, providing a bridge from underlying research to policy implications, with easily accessible overviews of issues and summaries of the findings for nonspecialists and policymakers followed by more specialized, interlinked studies of primary interest to scholars. Taken together, these analyses offer a uniquely integrated assessment that supports the book's economic and policy recommendations.

Z.Y. Xu, D.Q. Yu, L.B. Jing, and X.P. Xu. 2000. “Air pollution and daily mortality in Shenyang, China.” Archives of Environmental Health, 55, 2, Pp. 115-120. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The authors analyzed daily mortality data in Shenyang, China, for calendar year 1992 to identify possible associations with ambient sulfur dioxide and total suspended particulates. Both total suspended particulate concentrations (mean = 430 μmlg/m3, maximum = 1,141 μmlg/m3) and sulfur dioxide concentrations (mean 197 = μmlg/m3, maximum = 659 μmlg/m3) far exceeded the World Health Organization's recommended criteria. An average of 45.5 persons died each day. The lagged moving averages of air-pollution levels, calculated as the mean of the nonmissing air-pollution levels of the concurrent and 3 preceding days, were used for all analyses. Locally weighted regression analysis, including temperature, humidity, day of week, and a time variable, showed a positive association between daily mortality and both total suspended particulates and sulfur dioxide. When the authors included total suspended particulates and sulfur dioxide separately in the model, both were highly significant predictors of daily mortality. The risk of all-cause mortality increased by an estimated 1.7% and 2.4% with a 100-μmlg/m3 concomitant increase in total suspended particulate and sulfur dioxide, respectively. When the authors analyzed mortality separately by cause of death, the association with total suspended particulates was significant for cardiovascular disease (2.1%), but not statistically significant for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (2.6%). In contrast, the association with sulfur dioxide was significant for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (7.4%), but not for cardiovascular disease (1.8%). The mortality from cancer was not associated significantly with total suspended particles or with sulfur dioxide. The correlation between sulfur dioxide and total suspended particulates was high (correlation coefficient = .66). When the authors included sulfur dioxide and total suspended particulates simultaneously in the model, the association between total suspended particulates and mortality from all causes and cardiovascular diseases remained significant. Sulfur dioxide was associated significantly with increased mortality from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and other causes. The results of the current study reveal increased mortality associated with both total suspended particulates and sulfur dioxide.
Xiaoqi Guo and James K Hammitt. 2009. “Compensating wage differentials with unemployment: Evidence from China.” Environmental and Resource Economics, 42, 2, Pp. 187-209. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We estimate the economic value of mortality risk in China using the compensating-wage-differential method. We find a positive and statistically significant correlation between wages and occupational fatality risk. The estimated effect is largest for unskilled workers. Unemployment reduces compensation for risk, which suggests that some of the assumptions under which compensating wage differentials can be interpreted as measures of workers’ preferences for risk and income are invalid when unemployment is high. Workers may be unwilling to quit high-risk jobs when alternative employment is difficult to obtain, violating the assumption of perfect mobility, or some workers (e.g., new migrants) may be poorly informed about between-job differences in risk, violating the assumption of perfect information. These factors suggest our estimates of the value per statistical life (VSL) in China, which range from approximately US$30,000 to US$100,000, may be biased downward. Alternative estimates adjust for heterogeneity of risk within industry by assuming that risk is concentrated among low-skill workers. These estimates, which are likely to be biased downward, range from US$7,000 to US$20,000.

This study developed a new approach to the valuation of health risk in China, for monetizing health damages of environmental degradation.

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