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Accounting for the health benefits of air pollution regulations in China, 2008–2020

Principal Investigator: 

Boston University

This study will evaluate the major national regulatory policies that were implemented in China from 2008–2018. The investigators will focus on regulations in particular regions that target specific sources, such as coal combustion, and how they have reduced ambient concentrations of fine particles (and their components).

Funded under

Poster abstract for HEI Annual Conference 2022

Accounting for the health benefits of air pollution regulations in China, 2008-2020

Patrick L Kinney1, Beizhan Yan2, Xiaoming Shi3, Maigeng Zhou4, Shuxiao Wang5, Lucas Henneman6, Jia Xing5, Phil Hopke7, Tiantian Li3, Peng Yin4, Limin Wang4, Zhenping Zhao4, Wenrong Zhang4, Howard Chang8, Corwin Zigler9, Haidong Kan10

1Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA USA; 2Columbia Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY; 3National Institute of Environmental Health, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, China; 4National Center for Chronic and Non-communicable Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, China; 5Tsinghua University School of the Environment, Beijing, China; 6George Mason University, Fairfax, VA; 7University of Rochester, Rochester, NY; 8Emory University, Atlanta, GA; 9University of Texas, Austin, TX; 10Fudan University, Shanghai, China

Background China launched ambitious air pollution regulations in 2013 that have resulted in substantial improvements in air quality.

Methods: This project seeks to quantify the causal pathway linking regulations, emissions, ambient air pollution, and mortality in response to regulations implemented starting in 2013 in China.  We use the community multiscale air quality (CMAQ) model to simulation ambient PM2.5 and ozone throughout China.  CMAQ is run using observed emissions as well as counterfactual emission scenarios that eliminate source-specific emission control policies. We will evaluate and compare PM2.5 source contributions and their changes estimated by the CMAQ Integrated Source Apportionment Method (ISAM) and observation-based positive matrix factorization (PMF) approaches. In parallel, we will analyze and compare speciated PM2.5 and gaseous co-pollutant measurements from 3 sites in China to quantify changing source contributions over time. Finally, we will analyze the extent to which changes in regulatory policies, emissions, and/or air quality were associated with reduced mortality in two large nationwide cohorts that have data spanning the periods before and after the implementation of regulations.

Results: Progress in the first year of this project (June 2020-May 2021) was slowed by delays in negotiating subcontracts with our Chinese collaborators.  Currently in year two, we have now completed the bulk of the air modeling runs over China from 2008-2019, including one that simulates observations, one that separates the influence of meteorology, and one that models the counterfactual in which regulations since 2013 are eliminated.  In a related aim, source apportionment based on time series of filter elemental analyses are ongoing, including new analyses of elemental and organic carbon. Questionnaire and mortality data are now complete for one cohort and are 2/3 complete for the other. These data are being used in preliminary analyses to quantify changes in mortality following regulatory, emission, and air quality changes. 

Conclusions: Given the scope of air pollution regulations implemented in recent years in China, and the rich exposure and health outcome data now available, this project will provide a unique opportunity to evaluate health accountability associated with large-scale air pollution policies.