PM2.5 Concentrations in Major Regions in Mainland China Over Time

BTH=Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, PRD=Pearl River Delta, YRD=Yangtze River Delta

Residents and athletes in Beijing are breathing easier this Olympics with air pollution significantly reduced since the last Olympics hosted by the city in 2008, according to a new analysis by the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI). Pollution countrywide has declined by about 40 percent, and by about 50 percent in Beijing thanks to the country’s “war against pollution” since 2013. In most areas of China, pollution has fallen to levels not seen in more than two decades. Because of these reductions in pollution, the average Chinese citizen can expect to live 2 years longer and residents of Beijing can expect to live about 4 years longer, if the reductions are sustained.

To put China’s success into context, the reductions in pollution account for more than three quarters of the global decline since 2013. It took several decades and recessions for the United States to achieve the same pollution reductions that China has accomplished in seven years. But while China has met its national air quality standard, its pollution levels still exceed World Health Organization guidelines. When compared to the most polluted city in the United States, Los Angeles, Beijing is still three times more polluted. If China were to meet the WHO guideline, the average Chinese citizen could expect to gain an additional 2 years of life expectancy, on top of the recent gains. Residents of Beijing could gain an additional 3 years.

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