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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 2023

Accounting for the Health Benefits of Air Pollution Regulations in China

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, Haotian Zheng5, Runmie Ma3, Qinghua Sun3, 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.  The objective of this project is to analyze whether mortality rates have declined as PM2.5 levels have reduced.  We use both in situ observations and model outputs to characterize observed and counterfactual spatiotemporal trends in air quality from 2008-2019 across China. 

Methods. Source apportionments using speciated PM data have been analyzed for trends and related to regulatory implementation. The community multiscale air quality (CMAQ) model is used to simulation ambient PM2.5 and ozone at 27 km2 for all of China and at 9 km2 in a nested subdomain.  CMAQ is run using actual estimated emissions as well as counterfactual emission scenarios that quantify the impact of source-specific emission control policies on ambient concentrations. We 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. We have completed the bulk of the air modeling runs over China from 2008-2019: one run that simulates observations, another that separates the influence of meteorology, and one that models various counterfactual scenarios in which regulations and technological upgrades since 2008 are eliminated.  CMAQ evaluation against observations showed good agreement.  From 2008-2019, we estimate there was an overall ~40% reduction in PM2.5 as compared to a no-control scenario, but with regional heterogeneity. Questionnaire and mortality data are now being used in preliminary analyses to quantify associations between air pollution and mortality.

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 provides a unique opportunity to evaluate health accountability associated with large-scale air pollution policies.