80 mn Chinese at risk of dying from smoking, indoor pollution

October 4th, 2008 - 2:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 4 (IANS) More than 80 million Chinese may die in the next 25 years from complications related to smoking and indoor pollution from burning of biomass and coal, a Harvard University study says.If current levels of smoking and biomass and coal fuel use in Chinese homes continue, by 2033 there will be an estimated 65 million deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 18 million deaths from lung cancer, Science Daily news magazine quoted the study as saying.

The study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), the first quantitative analysis of the problem, called for sustained policy intervention and public awareness as an effective campaign to correct the scenario.

Respiratory diseases are among the 10 leading causes of deaths in China. About half of Chinese men smoke, with an increasing number of women picking up the habit, and in more than 70 percent of homes fuels for cooking and heating come from wood, coal and crop residues.

Smoking and pollution from indoor burning of these fuels are major risk factors for COPD and lung cancer and have been linked with tuberculosis, the study says.

More than 900 million of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers currently live in low-income and middle-income countries and about half of the world’s population uses biomass fuels and coal as sources of household energy.

The researchers said if smoking and use of biomass and coal are eliminated gradually over the next 30 years in China, an estimated 26 million COPD deaths and six million lung cancer deaths could be avoided over the next 30 years.

“There are proven ways to reduce tobacco smoking and to provide homes with clean-burning energy alternatives. China can save millions of premature deaths from respiratory diseases in the next few decades if it leverages its effective policy system to implement these interventions,” said Majid Ezzati, senior author of the study.

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