In Potential Blow to China’s Economy, Air Pollution Affects Brain

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A number of studies have shown that air pollution causes deaths in large Chinese cities. More recent research shows another damaging result. Air pollution can affect the ability of older people to think clearly. China has a huge aging population.

According to a research paper done on behalf of The World Health Organization:

Most of the population in developing countries live in places with unsafe air. Utilizing variations in transitory and cumulative air pollution exposures for the same individuals over time in China, we provide evidence that polluted air may impede cognitive ability as people become older, especially for less educated men.

This, in turn, can hurt the economy as some adults lose partial ability to reason.

The earlier research estimated that air pollution kills over 4,000 people a day in China. When water pollution is added, the number is higher. The problem has caused the central government to take measures to cut pollution in big cities. This has gone so far as to cut car traffic and shutter plants temporarily.

China’s largest cities are among the world’s most polluted based on air quality. Another WHO survey showed that, out of 11 cities with over 14 million residents, two are in China: Shanghai and Beijing. Other studies show that the problem already has hit a number of China’s cities with large populations.

As China’s population ages quickly, the problem of cognition among older people will bite the nation’s economy. Not only can the effect of air quality on this older population undermine their ability to function, making them less productive in many cases, but China may have to provide special care to many of them, an additional cost to the government.

Decades of lack of regulation of factory and auto activity have been catching up on China. The problem is getting worse as people age.