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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Sep 26;114(39):10384-10389. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1616784114. Epub 2017 Sep 11.

New evidence on the impact of sustained exposure to air pollution on life expectancy from China's Huai River Policy.

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Department of Environmental Economics and Management, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot 76100, Israel.
Department of Economics, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47304.
Department of Economics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637;
National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA 02138.
Division of Social Science, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong.
Division of Environment and Sustainability, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong.
Department of Economics, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong.
National Center for Chronic and Non-Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing 100050, China.


This paper finds that a 10-μg/m3 increase in airborne particulate matter [particulate matter smaller than 10 μm (PM10)] reduces life expectancy by 0.64 years (95% confidence interval = 0.21-1.07). This estimate is derived from quasiexperimental variation in PM10 generated by China's Huai River Policy, which provides free or heavily subsidized coal for indoor heating during the winter to cities north of the Huai River but not to those to the south. The findings are derived from a regression discontinuity design based on distance from the Huai River, and they are robust to using parametric and nonparametric estimation methods, different kernel types and bandwidth sizes, and adjustment for a rich set of demographic and behavioral covariates. Furthermore, the shorter lifespans are almost entirely caused by elevated rates of cardiorespiratory mortality, suggesting that PM10 is the causal factor. The estimates imply that bringing all of China into compliance with its Class I standards for PM10 would save 3.7 billion life-years.


China; Huai River; airborne particulate matter; life expectancy; regression discontinuity

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