China’s latest five-year plan (see Nature 591, 353–354; 2021) includes five main ecological indicators. In our view, it should also include rigorous indicators for monitoring the damaging effects of pollution on human health and the environment. Targets can then be set to reduce the damage.
China monitors various aspects of air quality, such as the concentration of particular chemicals. But, given the rise in asthma and other respiratory illnesses in the population, a quantitative national assessment of how air pollution is affecting human health is urgently needed. China also needs to evaluate the impact of poor water quality and habitat structure on aquatic biota to enable it to set meaningful goals and objectives for mitigating these effects in bodies of water.
Once these data are available, China will be better able to make real progress towards improving human health, mitigating existing environmental degradation and limiting future damage.
Nature 592, 507 (2021)