In Beijing, the rich are specially designing their homes and buying appliances to filter out pollutants in their air and water, while poorer residents are stuck breathing in the unfiltered smog, affecting not only their health but also, according to the new study, their cognitive abilities.
"We find that air pollution impairs verbal tests, and the effect becomes stronger as people age, especially for less educated men", it read. Therefore, a narrow focus on the negative effect on health may underestimate the total cost of air pollution ...
Ambient air pollution shortens an average Bangladeshi's lifespan by 1.87 years, say scientists who suggest that better air quality could lead to a significant extension of human lifespan around the world.
"We were able to systematically identify how air pollution also substantially shortens lives around the world".
Language ability was hit more than maths and men suffered more harm than women. The research team found that verbal and math scores "decreased with increasing cumulative air pollution exposure".
Researchers analyzed language and arithmetic tests conducted as part of the China Family Panel Studies on 20,000 people across the nation between 2010 and 2014.
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In a country struggling with pollution and with nearly non-existent laws or implementation of laws promoting environmental protection, the study carried out in China is most relevant to safeguard the safety of the future generation.
"High air pollution can potentially be associated with oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration of humans", said Derrick Ho of Hong Kong Polytechnic Institute.
"This latest study matches with previous research", said Derrick Ho of Hong Kong Polytechnic, who has worked on the health effects of extreme weather events like haze.
The group of regional and local leaders also want new clean air legislation, and a vehicle renewal scheme to replace old vehicles that produce more pollution.
The most polluted cities were found in developing countries.
The authors argue their conclusions are probably relevant for any location with high ongoing levels of air pollution - something that includes 98 percent of cities in low and middle-income countries with populations over 100,000.
"If the air pollution improves from China's level to the American EPA standard level, that means that would improve everyone's education by around one year", Chen said, referring to an annual EPA standard measurement for particulate matter that was used until 2006. It is alarming that more than 8,500 children die every year in the country from diseases caused by indoor air pollution.