By Feng Hao
The “Huai River Policy” has continued to this day for more than half a century. Hundreds of millions of northern urban residents enjoy stable and affordable heating services, while southern residents can only use the air conditioners, electric heaters, electric blankets and other means to survive the winter, and there is no subsidy. The fact that whether there is heating or not even affects some Chinese people’s choice of working city.
However, according to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the northern residents who enjoyed the warm winter also paid a heavy health price. The study pointed out that due to decades of large-scale coal-fired heating which caused air pollution and health problems, the average life expectancy of northern residents living in central heating districts is 3.1 years less than that in the south.
The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the United States, Israel, and Hong Kong, China, to quantify the relationship between respirable particulate matter concentration and life expectancy, and the variables studied were the North-South differences in China’s “Huai River Policy.” According to a research, from the south bank of the Huai River to the north bank, there is a sharp increase in air pollution. Specifically, under the influence of the heating subsidy policy, compared with the south of the Huai River, the concentration of PM10 in the north of the Huai River is 41.7 μg/m3 higher, the life expectancy is shortened by 3.1 years, and the mortality rate of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases is increased by 37%. .
Guojun He, an assistant professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said that the research is not a criticism of the heating policy itself, or a suggestion that central heating should be eliminated. The study did not propose specific policy recommendations. However, in recent years, many areas have carried out measures such as “coal to gas” and “coal to electricity” to reduce air pollution during the heating period. These are positive changes. In the long run, these changes will bring great health and benefit improvements.
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