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Nature. 2017 Mar 29;543(7647):705-709. doi: 10.1038/nature21712.

Transboundary health impacts of transported global air pollution and international trade.

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Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Department of Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.
State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.
Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, California 92697, USA.
Energy Systems Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois 60439, USA.
Laboratory for Climate and Ocean-Atmosphere Studies, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.
School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada.
Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4R2, Canada.
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
Institute of Energy, Environment, and Economy, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.
Resnick Sustainability Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.
School of Public Health, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Sources and Control of Air Pollution Complex, Beijing 100084, China.
School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK.


Millions of people die every year from diseases caused by exposure to outdoor air pollution. Some studies have estimated premature mortality related to local sources of air pollution, but local air quality can also be affected by atmospheric transport of pollution from distant sources. International trade is contributing to the globalization of emission and pollution as a result of the production of goods (and their associated emissions) in one region for consumption in another region. The effects of international trade on air pollutant emissions, air quality and health have been investigated regionally, but a combined, global assessment of the health impacts related to international trade and the transport of atmospheric air pollution is lacking. Here we combine four global models to estimate premature mortality caused by fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution as a result of atmospheric transport and the production and consumption of goods and services in different world regions. We find that, of the 3.45 million premature deaths related to PM2.5 pollution in 2007 worldwide, about 12 per cent (411,100 deaths) were related to air pollutants emitted in a region of the world other than that in which the death occurred, and about 22 per cent (762,400 deaths) were associated with goods and services produced in one region for consumption in another. For example, PM2.5 pollution produced in China in 2007 is linked to more than 64,800 premature deaths in regions other than China, including more than 3,100 premature deaths in western Europe and the USA; on the other hand, consumption in western Europe and the USA is linked to more than 108,600 premature deaths in China. Our results reveal that the transboundary health impacts of PM2.5 pollution associated with international trade are greater than those associated with long-distance atmospheric pollutant transport.

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