Those figures are consistent with what Chinese scientists have been saying in recent years about industrial coal burning and its relation to air pollution. The study, which was peer-reviewed, grew out of a collaboration between Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s top research universities, and the Health Effects Institute, based in Boston, a research center that receives funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the worldwide motor vehicle industry. The researchers’ primary aim was to identify the main sources of air pollution leading to premature deaths in China.
The study attributed 155,000 deaths in 2013 related to ambient PM 2.5 to industrial coal burning, and 86,500 deaths to coal burning at power plants. Fuel combustion of both coal and biomass in households was another major cause of disease that year, resulting in 177,000 deaths, the study concluded. The researchers also found that transportation was a major cause of mortality related to PM 2.5, with 137,000 deaths attributed to it in 2013. In recent years, Chinese scientists have said that motor vehicle emissions are a leading source of air pollution in cities, although not as great as coal burning. Vehicle ownership is rising fast in China, and officials, carmakers, and oil and gas companies have quarreled over setting emissions standards.
China consumes almost as much coal annually as all other countries combined, and coal burning in the country is the biggest source of both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, the leading cause of climate change. Chinese cities are among the most polluted in the world. Provinces in northern China, where steel, cement and power plants are common, have the highest concentrations of PM 2.5 in the country.