Revealing the hidden health costs embodied in Chinese exports

Xujia Jiang, Qiang Zhang, Hongyan Zhao, Guannan Geng, Liqun Peng, Dabo Guan, Haidong Kan, Hong Huo, Jintai Lin, Michael Brauer, Randall V. Martin, Kebin He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


China emits a considerable amount of air pollutants when producing goods for export. Previous efforts have emphasized the magnitude of export-related emissions; however, their health consequences on the Chinese population have not been quantified. Here, we present an interdisciplinary study to estimate the health impact of export-related air pollution. The results show that export-related emissions elevated the annual mean population weighted PM2.5 by 8.3 μg/m3 (15% of the total) in 2007, causing 157,000 deaths and accounting for 12% of the total mortality attributable to PM2.5-related air pollution. Compared to the eastern coastal provinces, the inner regions experience much larger export-related health losses relative to their economic production gains, owing to huge inter-regional disparities in export structures and technology levels. A shift away from emission-intensive production structure and export patterns, especially in inner regions, could significantly help improve national exports while alleviating the inter-regional cost-benefit inequality. Our results provide the first quantification of health consequences from air pollution related to Chinese exports. The proposed policy recommendations, based on health burden, economic production gains, and emission analysis, would be helpful to develop more sustainable and effective national and regional export strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4381-4388
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number7
Early online date23 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2015

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