Background: Over the past two decades there has been a large migration of China's population from rural to urban regions. At the same time, residences in cities have changed in character from single-story or low-rise buildings to high-rise structures constructed and furnished with many synthetic materials. As a consequence, indoor exposures (to pollutants with outdoor and indoor sources) have changed significantly. Objectives: We briefly discuss the inferred impact that urbanization and modernization have had on indoor exposures and public health in China. We argue that growing adverse health costs associated with these changes are not inevitable, and we present steps that could be taken to reduce indoor exposures to harmful pollutants. Discussion: As documented by China's Ministry of Health, there have been significant increases in morbidity and mortality among urban residents over the past 20 years. Evidence suggests that the population's exposure to air pollutants has contributed to increases in lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, and birth defects. Whether a pollutant has an outdoor or an indoor source, most exposure to the pollutant occurs indoors. Going forward, indoor exposures can be reduced by limiting the ingress of outdoor pollutants (while providing adequate ventilation with clean air), minimizing indoor sources of pollutants, updating government policies related to indoor pollution, and addressing indoor air quality during a building's initial design. Conclusions: Taking the suggested steps could lead to significant reductions in morbidity and mortality, greatly reducing the societal costs associated with pollutant derived ill health.
Environmental Health Perspectives, 2013, Vol 121, Issue 7, p. 751-755