February 1, 2013
A renowned scientist has said that the smog shrouding central and eastern China is more harmful to people than the deadly spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) 10 years ago, pointing out that while SARS can be quarantined, no one can escape from air pollution.
Zhong Nanshan from the Chinese Academy of Engineering made the comment during an interview with a China Central Television news channel Wednesday.
Zhong is credited with helping to identify and then stem the 2003 outbreak of pneumonia-like SARS that killed 349 people on the Chinese mainland.
In the interview, Zhong described smog as the major cause of respiratory diseases.
“The number of lung cancer cases in Beijing has increased by 60% in the past 10 years. That’s astonishing,” Zhong said.
He quoted a study by a Hong Kong medical expert that found the fatality rate among respiratory patients increases to 11% if levels of PM 2.5—tiny particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs—increase to 200 micrograms per cubic meter from 25 micrograms.
Zhong said smog will also affect the cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and nervous systems.
He spoke positively about proposals that encourage people who work outdoors, such as traffic police officers, to wear masks when working in smoggy conditions.
He stressed that unlike SARS outbreaks in which patients can be quarantined and treated, no one can escape from air pollution, which also seeps indoors. Therefore, Zhong also called for efforts to improve people’s basic living environments.
Data from a China-based air quality monitoring website, www.pm2d5.com, showed that PM 2.5 levels were between 220 and 300 mcg per cubic meter in Beijing at 10 a.m. Thursday.
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