A recent report from the World Health Organization reveals the growing problem regarding worsening air pollution, its risk of exposure, and its associated diseases (WHO). According to this study, more than 9 in 10 people breathe in “unhealthy air”, making air pollution a serious public health issue.
Most shockingly, about three million deaths a year are attributed to outdoor air pollution, most of which come from cardiovascular, pulmonary, and other non-communicable diseases. Geographically, most diseases caused by air pollution are concentrated in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific region. Air pollution is typically not visible to the eyes, but “the tiny particles that are suspended in the air… do exceed what’s considered to be acceptable from a health viewpoint,” says Rajasekhar Balasubramania, air quality expert at the National University of Singapore to the New York Times (Ivies, 2016).
Indeed, most countries that experience elevated levels of air pollution are developing countries, where heavy industries and manufactures are concentrated. As a leading manufacturer of the world, China has sacrificed its environment. According a research titled Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentration and Sources from PLOS, about three-eighths of the Chinese people directly interact with “unhealthy” air (Rhode & Muller, 2015). Furthermore, it is difficult to see, as the most dangerous pollutants can be only 2.5 microns in diameter, which allow them to travel into human lungs and bloodstreams, causing hazardous health effects, such as asthma, strokes, lung cancer and heart attacks (citation). In fact, air pollution is the primary cause of 1.6 million deaths in China annually. (Levin, 2015)
Nevertheless, China has made efforts to curb its pollution. In the 13th Five-Year-Plan, the Chinese government has aimed to reduce PM2.5 particles in the air by 2020. As a comparison, the daily average PM2.5 is the maximum level set by the United States and the World Health Organization. However, most cities will not be able to meet this standard (Tatlow, 2016). In fact, the situation is so bad that many urban residents check the air purity levels more than the weather, and air purifiers have become a luxury in many homes (Sona, 2016). Although the Chinese government optimistically believes in the gradual reduction of factory air emission, the reduction might not be big enough to balance out the effect of global warming. “In the long run, emission reductions of both pollutants and greenhouse gases are needed to mitigate the winter haze problem,” says Yuhang Wang, an atmospheric scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta (Hernández, 2017). Therefore, more actions are needed, especially at the local level, to fight back air pollution and on a larger scale, climate change.
World Health Organization (2016). Ambient Air Pollution: A Global Assessment of Exposure and Burden of Disease.
Ivies, Mike (27, September 2016) More Than 9 in 10 People Breathe Bad Air, W.H.O. Study Says. New York Times Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/28/world/air-pollution-smog-who.html
Rhode, R.,Muller, R. (August, 2015). Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources. PLOS Retrieved from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0135749
Levin, Dan. (13, August 2015). Study Links Polluted Air in China to 1.6 Million Deaths a Year. New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/world/asia/study-links-polluted-air-in-china-to-1-6-million-deaths-a-year.html
Tatlow, K. Didi. (16, December 2016). China Has Made Strides in Addressing Air Pollution, Environmentalist Says. New York Times. Retrieved from : https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/16/world/asia/china-air-pollution-ma-jun.html
Patel, Sona. (22, December 2016). In the Dirtiest Cities, Air Pollution Forces Life Changes. New York Times. Retrieved from : https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/world/asia/air-pollution-china-india.html
Hernández, Javier. (24, March 2017). Climate Change May Be Intensifying China’s Smog Crisis. New York Times. Retrieved from : https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/world/asia/china-air-pollution-smog-climate-change.html