Via The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, a book review: Asia's air: population health after rapid industrialisation. Excerpt:
Global industrialisation has boosted economic growth, but the consequences for the environment and for population health have been dire. An increase in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and mortality, particularly in urban areas, has been linked to air pollution worldwide. Hazardous Air Pollutants: Case Studies from Asia (Dong-Chun Shin, CRC Press) is a collection of research papers summarising the current situation in Asia—specifically China, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea.
Each case study offers a country-specific background: socioeconomic, demographic, and geographical context; health effects of and levels of exposure to air pollution; risk assessment and management; and, finally, conclusions and recommendations. These analytical and epidemiological case studies form the first section of the book, with the second section delving into the neurological effects of air pollution, toxic contributions from vehicle emissions, and the big one—climate change.
The three major air pollutants are ambient particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 10 μm (PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulphur dioxide (SO2). Fossil fuel combustion is known to contribute substantially to urban air pollution, which is a discernable problem when economic growth is reliant on energy consumption.
China is a leading example of a country that has gained in prosperity and wealth, but consequently suffered from a decline in environmental and population health. Each of the countries studied now have national Ambient Air Quality Standards. Ambient air pollution is a major risk factor for population health in China—PM with an aerodynamic diameter of 2·5 μm (PM2·5) is considered particularly dangerous.
In the first chapter, on China, Shaowei Wu and Xinbiao Guo note that only a small number of epidemiological studies have indicated an association between PM2·5 and mortality— more so than from the larger particles—but much uncertainty remains about the adverse health effects of ambient PM, owing to its varying sizes and chemical components.
They also highlight the scarcity of research on the long-term health effects of air pollution in China—compared with studies done in less-polluted regions such as North America and Europe—which can provide valuable evidence to ensure that air quality guidelines will address the key concerns in China.