Air pollution characteristics and health risks in Henan Province, China

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Abstract

Events of severe air pollution occurred frequently in China recently, thus understanding of the air pollution characteristics and its health risks is very important. In this work, we analyzed a two-year dataset (March 2014 – February 2016) including daily concentrations of six criteria pollutants (PM2.5, PM10, CO, SO2, NO2, and O3) from 18 cities in Henan province. Results reveal the serious air pollution status in Henan province, especially the northern part, and Zhengzhou is the city with the worst air quality. Annual average PM2.5 concentrations exceed the second grade of Chinese Ambient Air Quality Standard (75 μg/m3) at both 2014 and 2015. PM2.5 is typically the major pollutant, but ozone pollution can be significant during summer. Furthermore, as the commonly used air quality index (AQI) neglects the mutual health effects from multiple pollutants, we introduced the aggregate air quality index (AAQI) and health-risk based air quality index (HAQI) to evaluate the health risks. Results show that based on HAQI, the current AQI system likely significantly underestimate the health risks of air pollution, highlighting that the general public may need stricter health protection measures. The population-weighted two-year average HAQI data further demonstrates that all population in the studied cities in Henan province live with polluted air – 72% of the population is exposed to air that is unhealthy for sensitive people, while 28% of people is exposed to air that can be harmful to healthy people; and the health risks are much greater during winter than during other seasons. Future works should further improve the HAQI algorithm, and validate the links between the clinical/epidemiologic data and the HAQI values.

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