Life expectancy for residents of northern China is over five years shorter than people living in the south. Scientists have concluded that the disparity between the north and south is caused mainly by the excessive use of coal for energy.

China pollution AP971430398958 620x350 Living in polluted China will knock off 5 years of your life

Through analyses of health and pollution data from 1981 to 2001, researchers from the US, Israel and China found that that the 500 million Chinese living north of the Huai River will have around 2.5 billion years of life expectancy knocked off. Furthermore, the study also found that the drop in life expectancy affects all age groups—not just the elderly or those compromised by health issues.

Howard Frumkin, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, states that the data as well as the findings are consistent with previous research of similar topics.

“It highlights that in developing countries there’s a trade-off in increasing incomes today and protecting public health and environmental quality,” said Michael Greenstone, professor of environmental economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “And it highlights the fact that the public health costs are larger than we had thought.”

The Chinese researchers involved in the study hope that the Chinese government will see that detrimental effects of coal burning and pursue much more aggressive reform policies to protect the general public.

It is reported that Chinese are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of regulation in areas deemed as highly polluted. Instead of packing up and moving to less polluted portions of China, it appears as though many middle and upper class Chinese are seeking to leave the country altogether.