Millions to die in China from lung disease

Tens of millions of people will die from respiratory illness and lung cancer over the next 25 years in China if nothing is done to reduce smoking and fuel burning indoors, scientists warned.

In an article published in the Lancet, they predicted 65-million deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 18-million deaths from lung cancer between 2003 and 2033 from smoking and biomass burning at home.

Those figures would account for 19% and 5% respectively of all deaths in China during that period, said the researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

However, interventions to reduce smoking and household use of biomass—like wood, charcoal, crop residues and dung—for cooking and heating could reduce the number of deaths.

Using mathematical models, they said gradual elimination of smoking and biomass burning would avoid 26-million deaths from COPD and 6,3-million deaths from lung cancer by 2033.

Interventions include building proper chimneys, air circular stoves with chimneys ending outside the house and ventilated ground stoves to cut respirable particulates, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide circulating indoors.

“There are proven ways to reduce tobacco smoking and to provide homes with clean-burning energy alternatives. China can save millions of premature deaths from respiratory diseases in the next few decades if it ... implements these interventions,” said Majid Ezzati, associate professor of international health at HSPH and senior author of the study.

Respiratory diseases are among the 10 leading causes of deaths in China.
About half of Chinese men smoke and in more than 70% of homes, Chinese cook and heat their homes with wood, coal and crop residues.

Smoking and pollution from indoor burning of these fuels are major risk factors for COPD and lung cancer and have been linked to tuberculosis.

Globally, more than 900-million of the world’s 1,1-billion smokers currently live in low-income and middle-income countries and about one half of the world’s population uses biomass and coal for household energy. - Reuters

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