When you buy a pair of cheap pants from Asia, for example, you will inadvertently increase the rate of prematurely over there and the harmful particles from industries also spread around the world.

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The new study published in the journal Nature show that harmful particles from emissions not only cause illness and increased mortality within the area of which the factories are situated, but the particles are transported by water, wind, and goods around the world.

“We need to move away from the waste in our lifestyle. One way is to avoid cheap products and instead focus on quality. We are globally connected and no one standing outside environment. It requires a global solution to the problem”

– Dabo Juan, one of the researchers behind the study.

The research involved economists, epidemiologists and environmental scientists from the US, Canada, Britain and China. They calculated how much impact our consumption of goods has on the spread and the resulting mortality caused by harmful particles.

They found that harmful particles are mainly produced in the manufacture of clothing, toys and mobile phones.

“Our study shows that international trade has increased the distance that the particles may spread, thereby spreading out the negative health effects. It is the first time quantified the impact of international trade in air pollution and mortality it causes in different regions.”

– Qiang Zhang, one of the researchers behind the study.

The researchers calculated that 90 percent of deaths in 2007 was due to air pollution caused by harmful particles consisting of fragments of material. These particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (μm) cause an estimated 3.45 million deaths worldwide per year.

About twelve percent of these deaths are caused by particles spread by wind and water. Some 22 percent of the deaths are associated to transport of goods between countries.

“It is not only the Chinese who die in the United States are buying Chinese goods, but also the United States are experiencing harmful particles. So it is more complicated and involves everyone”

– Steven Davis, one of the researchers behind the study.

The study’s authors emphasize that China’s exports cause the greatest number of premature deaths due to a high population density, quantity of its emissions, and its focus on manufacturing for export. An estimated 11 percent of Chinese deaths due to air pollution were tied to goods consumed in the United States and Western Europe, which import the most Chinese products, in 2007.


Qiang Zhang et al. Transboundary health impacts of Transported global air pollution and international trade. Nature, 2017. DOI: 10.1038.