A group of leading medical experts is losing no time in researching the effect of air pollution on health in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. The findings of the study, which received government support of 130 million yuan ($21 million), are expected in mid-2019, a project insider said.
Shi Xiaoming, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the acute impact of air pollution, especially heavy smog, on groups such as children, seniors and people with cardiopulmonary diseases is a key focus of the research. [Special coverage]
Scientists will study the link between air pollution, lung cancer and other cancers, look into health protections and develop an assessment system for protective devices like air purifiers, and evaluate the role of traditional medicine in reducing the effects of air pollution, he said.
"Air quality improves step by step. It's necessary to know how to reduce people's exposure to air pollution to minimize the threat," said Shi, who is deputy director of a national joint research center on air pollution causes and control.
More than 100 experts from China's leading medical institutes－including the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Cardiovascular Disease, and Peking and Tsinghua universities－have participated in the study, he said.
The study was launched about six months ago as part of a national project targeting air pollution.
Shi said the government plans to invest 700 million to 800 million yuan in a comprehensive research project of air pollution causes and control in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, and this health impact assessment is part of that.
According to Shi's center, the team has interviewed more than 2,500 people and collected blood and urine samples. As of Jan 18, more than 900 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma have been monitored.
"We'll conduct thorough analysis on the data to know the effect of air pollution on changes to people's physiological and biochemical indexes," Shi said, adding that 300 medical professionals from 31 institutes in six provincial regions have taken part in the study.
"We're working with great intensity. It needs high-quality data to assess the impact of air pollution on health," he said. "To ensure the quality, we've dispatched experts from national institutions to offer guidance in all places where we're doing studies."
While applauding China's achievements in air pollution control, Shi called for the establishment of a national pollution impact monitoring and risk assessment system.
"The continued effort in fighting air pollution has helped a lot in reducing the threat to public health. But contamination is lingering and can't be rooted out overnight.
"Meanwhile, the impact of pollution on health is complicated and may only show up after a long period of time," Shi said.