PM2.5 related premature deaths worldwide embodied in international trade

MAR . 30 2017
Peking University, Mar. 30, 2017: On March 30, an international collaborative study co-led by Zhang Qiang  and He Kebin at Tsinghua University and Lin Jintai at Peking University was published in Nature, which revealed for the first time the global premature deaths from ambient PM2.5 pollution as a result of economic trade and atmospheric transport.

According to the estimate of the World Health Organization, ambient fine particle pollution (PM2.5) leads to more than 3 million premature deaths worldwide. PM2.5 is produced from emissions out of economic activities producing goods and services to supply consumption. PM pollution is thought to mostly affect local air quality, with some fractions being transported in the atmosphere to long distances. The current economic globalization means that production of goods and associated emissions is transferred from regions consuming to regions producing those goods. This results in significant redistribution of emissions and pollution worldwide, with important consequences on air quality and human health.

Starting from 2012, Peking University and Tsinghua University co-led an international collaborative team to analyze the atmospheric environmental problems related to consumption and trade, particularly on how trade activities are coupled with atmospheric transport processes to lead to globalizing air pollution and resulting environmental and climate impacts. To date, the team has addressed a variety of trade-related questions, including emissions and pollution embodied in China’s international and inter-provincial trade, and the impacts of global multi-lateral trade on aerosol climate forcing. The results have been published in PNAS (Cozzarelli Prize winner), Nature Geoscience, Environmental Science & Technology, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, and other journals.

In this Nature paper, the team analyzed the impacts of global trade and atmospheric transport on PM2.5 related premature deaths worldwide. They found that PM2.5 pollution embodied in global trade is associated with about 760,000 mortalities worldwide in 2007, contributing 22% of all PM2.5 related deaths. Trade-related pollution transfer is much more effective than atmospheric transport in causing redistribution of premature deaths. China, India and other developing countries are net exporters of goods, and the developed countries are net importers. As a result, trade means increased pollution and deaths in the developing countries and reduced deaths in the developed countries. Atmospheric transport means that both production and consumption by a particular region leads to global PM pollution and mortalities (Fig. 1). This study reveals the link between production, consumption, trade, pollution transfer and public health, and it calls for fastened emission reduction in the developing countries as well as improved global collaboration to reduce pollution by accounting for the role of consumption and trade in redistributing pollution.

Professor Lin Jintai in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics is a co-corresponding author of the paper, together with Professors Zhang Qiang and He Hebin at Tsinghua University and Professor Steven Davis at the University of California, Irvine. Professor Zhang Qiang and his postdoc Jiang Xujia and graduate student Tong Dan are the joint first authors. The study was funded by NSFC and the 973 Project.

Figure 1. Global distribution of premature deaths due to ambient PM2.5pollution as a result of production (left) and consumption (right) of goods and services in China, Western Europe, the United States and India. Source: Zhang et al., 2017, Nature.

Zhang, Q. #*, Jiang, X. #, Tong, D. #, Davis, S. J. *, Zhao, H., Geng, G., Feng, T., Zheng, B., Lu, Z., Streets, D. G., Ni, R.-J. , Brauer, M., van Donkelaar, A., Martin, R. V., Huo, H., Liu, Z., Pan, D., Kan, H., Yan, Y.-Y. , Lin, J.-T. * , He, K. *, and Guan, D.: Transboundary health impacts of transported global air pollution and international trade, Nature, 543, 705-709, doi:10.1038/nature21712, 2017
Related papers:
(1)    Lin, J.-T. #*, Pan, D. # , Davis, S. J., Zhang, Q. *, He, K. *, Wang, C., Streets, D. G., Wuebbles, D. J., and Guan, D.: China’s international trade and air pollution in the United States, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111, 1736-1741, doi:10.1073/pnas.1312860111, 2014,
(2)    Guan, D.-B., Lin, J.-T. *, Davis, S. J., Pan, D. , He, K.-B., Wang, C., Wuebbles, D. J., Streets, D. G., and Zhang, Q.: Reply to Lopez et al.: Consumption-based accounting helps mitigate global air pollution, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111, E2631, doi:10.1073/pnas.1407383111, 2014,
(3)    Jiang, X., Zhang, Q., Zhao, H., Geng, G., Peng, L., Guan, D., Kan, H., Huo, H., Lin, J.-T. , Brauer, M., Martin, R. V., and He, K.: Revealing the hidden health costs embodied in Chinese exports, Environmental Science & Technology, 49, 4381-4388, doi:10.1021/es506121s, 2015,
(4)    Zhao, H. Y., Zhang, Q., Davis, S. J., Guan, D., Liu, Z., Huo, H., Lin, J.-T. , Liu, W. D., and He, K. B.: Assessment of China's virtual air pollution transport embodied in trade by using a consumption-based emission inventory, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 15, 5443-5456, doi:10.5194/acp-15-5443-2015, 2015,
(5)    Lin, J.-T. #*, Tong, D. #, Davis, S., Ni, R.-J. , Tan, X., Pan, D. , Zhao, H., Lu, Z., Streets, D., Feng, T., Zhang, Q. *, Yan, Y.-Y. , Hu, Y., Li, J., Liu, Z., Jiang, X., Geng, G., He, K., Huang, Y. *, and Guan, D.: Global climate forcing of aerosols embodied in international trade, Nature Geoscience, 9, 790-794, doi:10.1038/NGEO2798, 2016 ,
(6)    Zhao, H., Zhang, Q., Huo, H., Lin, J.-T. , Liu, Z., Wang, H., Guan, D., and He, K.: Environment-economy tradeoff for Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei's product exports, Applied Energy, 184, 926-935, doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.04.038, 2016,
(7)    Zhao, H., Li, X., Zhang, Q., Jiang, X., Lin, J.-T. , Peters, G. G., Li, M., Geng, G., Zheng, B., Huo, H., Zhang, L., Davis, S. J., and He, K.: Effects of atmospheric transport and trade on air pollution mortality in China, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 2017, 1-23, doi:10.5194/acp-2017-263, 2017 ,

Source: School of Physics
Edited by: Zhang Jiang