Beijing (dpa) - More than a quarter million people in China's biggest cities could have their lives cut short from high levels of air pollution, according to a new study.
Research from one of China's leading universities found an average of 90 out of every 100,000 people living in 31 provincial capitals could die prematurely from long-term exposure to fine air-borne dust.
The metropolis of Shijiazhuang in the northern Hebei province next to Beijing has an estimated rate of 137 premature deaths from pollution-related causes per 100,000 people - the highest of the 31 capitals.
The findings were based on official government data measuring suspended particulate matter in urban areas in 2013, analysed by Peking University and Greenpeace.
The study found that 41 premature deaths per 100,000 people could be avoided if the cities were to meet national air quality standards.
PM2.5 concentration refers to particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres, which pose serious health hazards because they can embed deep in the lungs.
Last year, nearly 90 per cent of China's biggest cities failed to meet the government's air quality standards, state media reported Monday.
The national safety standard for daily maximum exposure to PM2.5 particles is 35 micrograms per cubic metre. Average levels of PM2.5 particles in the Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin region in 2014 was 93 micrograms per cubic metre, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said. Only eight out of 74 cities met national standards for the amount of airborne particles, Xinhua News Agency reported.