Air Pollution: A Crisis in China By: Hunter Willoughby-Spera

The Sources of Air Pollution in China

China has struggled for many years to control the increasing problem of air pollution. The primary sources of air pollution are emmisions from factories, power plants, and vehicles. Pollution is caused by carbon monoxide produced from the burning carbon fuels from gas, oil, coal, and wood. It also results in the production of other toxic gases like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Scientists also evaluate pollution by the amount of particles, PM2.5 that are produced.

PM 2.5 refers to the particle matter ("PM") in the atmosphere that has a diameter less that 2.5 micrometers. PM2.5 is approximately 3% the size of a human hair and can only be seen with an electron microscope. These toxic particles are emitted into the air from factories, vehicles, and the burning of fossil fuels. They also form new toxic particles (like sulfuric acid) when they interact with oxygen or water.
What are the Effects of PM2.5 and other Pollutants on People?

Tiny particles of PM2.5 easily pass into the bloodstream when inhaled and act like a toxic poison. These pollutants lead to respiratory disorders and cardiovascular diseases. They cause, bronchitis, pneumonia band frequently result in cancer. The inhalation of carbon monoxide leads to luring disease and clogged arteries resulting in lung cancer and heart attacks.

Just How Bad is it in China?

  • The Maximum acceptable concentration in the U.S is 37 micrometers vs. the average acceptable concentration in China for PM2.5 is 75 micrometers
  • Breathing the air in Beijing is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day
  • Approximately 300,000 to 1 million in premature deaths per year caused by air pollution
  • Winds carry pollution accros China so pollution is no longer a city problem, it is now a regional problem

What is China doing About the Pollution Problem?

  • China is now keeping track of emissions
  • China has recorded more than 290,000 in pollution violations last year vs. 2,500 ten years ago
  • China is increasing awareness about pollution by releasing air quality information to the public
  • China has a 5-year plan to reduce PM2.5 by 202 to levels closer on average to 37 micrometers.

But it's Not That Easy

  • Pollution Proofing homes are unrealistic and financially out of reach
  • Monitoring emissions is difficult because local government fake their emission reduction reports
  • Even though the public feels they have a right to know about emissions and participate in pollution reduction discussions, the government continues to withhold information from the public. The government is worried about causing panic in the country
  • Pollution proofing homes is unrealistic because it is too expansive for most people. As a result, only the wealthy have reasonable breathable air while the poor suffer

There is Hope

The Chinese people have a long legacy, starting with Confucianism, which values education. China realizes the importance of education and the Chinese are learning more about their environment and controlling population. Taoism, and the importance of being one with nature, is also an important Chinese philosophy and legacy. The Chinese also realize how they must preserve nature and reduce carbon emissions since they depend on their environment to survive.

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