Residents of northern China got free coal from the government during winters from 1950 to 1980, but it turns out that the coal actually came at a heavy price: shorter lifespans.
The Chinese government’s Huai River policy provided coal free of charge to everybody living north of Huai River, which cleaves China in two. As residents of northern China, the colder part of the country, huddled around fuel burners inside their homes, the air outside was growing black with particular matter. Breathing that air robbed northern residents of an average of 5.5 years of their lives compared with their southern compatriots.
That’s the stark finding of a new comparison of historical pollution levels and mortality data north and south of the Huai River. The study results, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provide a stark illustration of the deathly consequences of coal burning.