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High PM2.5 linked to deaths, researchers

By Liu Sha (Global Times)

08:05, May 21, 2012

Researchers from Peking University say minute particle pollution as indicated by high PM2.5 readings will cause a spike in the mortality rate of patients suffering heart and lung diseases.

The researchers from the College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Center for Environment and Health at the university published their findings in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Whenever a reading of PM2.5 rises to 103 microgram per cubic meter, the mortality rate among those with risk factors will increase 2.29 percent, according to the study, which examined data from the city of Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province.

Xi'an's frequent sand storms and a heating system that is mainly powered by coal made the city typical of China's northern cities.

Fine particles including metals, pollution caused by engine combustion and secondary components are responsible for the acute attacks suffered by heart and lung patients when PM2.5 readings are high, said the study.

"The polluted air is hard to diffuse in cold weather, a factor that pushes up the PM2.5 readings in the winter," Huang Wei, one of the study's authors told the Beijing News.

Zhou Zijun, professor with the School of Public Health of Peking University, told the Global Times yesterday that apart from burning coal in winter to run the heating system, vehicle emissions are also a major problem in cities like Beijing.

"People across the country should be on a high alert to the mortality rate caused by high PM2.5," Zhou said.

"PM2.5 is only one of the indices that measure the air quality," said Zhou.

The study claimed that further research is needed to pinpoint the link between PM2.5 and seasonal variation that can also affect the public's health.

"This kind of study should be encouraged," Zhou added.

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