Air pollution caused 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, according to the Global Burden of Disease report released by British medical journal The Lancet.
As much as 70 per cent of China's population lives in regions where levels of PM2.5 - airborne particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres - exceed World Health Organization recommendations, according to the National Resources Defense Council, an international environmental group.
Air pollution from burning coal killed an estimated 670,000 people across the country in 2012, according to the report released in 2014.
"Coal and coal-related industrial processes account for 50 per cent to 60 per cent of the airborne pollutants ... that make their way deep into the lungs, increasing the likelihood of lung cancer, stroke and other diseases," it said.
Of the 7 million people around the world who died from air pollution in 2012, nearly 40 per cent of them occurred in the Asia-Pacific, the World Health Organization said last year.