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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Lung disease 'to kill 83m' in China

6th October 2008

Indoor pollution caused by the burning of heating fuels and smoking could be responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people in China over the next quarter century, new research shows.


If nothing is done to reduce smoking and the use of solid fuel blocks for heating in homes, millions of Chinese will succumb to respiratory illnesses and lung cancer, scientists warn.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) predict 65 million deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 18 million deaths from lung cancer between 2003 and 2033, citing indoor pollution as the leading cause.

In an article published in The Lancet, they say that the COPD projected figures would account for 19% of all deaths in China during that period, while lung cancer deaths would account for 5% of deaths.

Many of China's 900 million rural residents still depend on biomass fuels like wood, charcoal, fuel briquettes, crop stubble and animal dung for cooking and heating.

The team used mathematical models to show how the gradual elimination of smoking and biomass burning could avoid 26 million deaths from COPD and 6.3 million deaths from lung cancer by 2033.

A big risk factor was respirable particulates, which should be directed out of the home by the use of proper chimneys and ventilation systems. Carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide were also present in indoor air.

Senior author Majid Ezzati, associate professor of international health at HSPH, said China could make use of proven ways to reduce tobacco smoking and to provide homes with clean-burning energy alternatives.

More than 70% of Chinese homes are thought to be heated with biomass-burning stoves, while around half of the male population smokes. Respiratory disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in China.

This compares with global figures which show that around half the world's population burns biomass and coal for heating and cooking.

The world's 1.1 billion smokers are primarily concentrated in low- and middle-income countries.

Indoor pollution has been clearly identified as a major risk factor for COPD and lung cancer, with some links suggested to tuberculosis as well.


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