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China’s Off-the-Charts Air Pollution Is Making its Way to the U.S.

China’s Off-the-Charts Air Pollution Is Making its Way to the U.S.

Written by Katie Valentine

China’s pollution has shut down schools and shortened lifespans in the country — but according to a new study, it’s not just Chinese residents who should be worried about their smog.

On the West Coast of the U.S., pollution blown in from China can account for 12 to 24 percent of sulfate concentrations on any given day, a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. That pollution caused Los Angeles to experience an extra day of smog levels that were above the federal health standards for ozone in 2006.

But though the pollution comes from China, the U.S. still bears part of the responsibility. That’s because about a fifth of China’s air pollution comes from the manufacture of goods for export to other countries, including the U.S., China’s second-largest trading partner. The study found that manufacturing for the export sector contributed to 36 percent of China’s sulfur dioxide emissions, 27 percent of its nitrogen oxides, 22 percent of its carbon monoxide and 17 percent of its black carbon — a pollutant linked to cancer, emphysema and asthma.

“When you buy a product at Wal-Mart, it has to be manufactured somewhere,” Steve Davis, co-author of the study and University of California at Irvine scientist told the Washington Post. “The product doesn’t contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution.”

China’s pollution has been setting records recently — in December, Shanghai was hit with a week of air pollution so bad that it cancelled flights and sporting events and forced children and the elderly indoors. And last week, Beijing experienced its first off-the-charts air pollution of 2014. China has implemented pollution reduction targets and a carbon trading scheme in some major cities, but in 2013 the country also approved the construction of $10 billion worth of new coal production capacity.

An oft-cited argument against measures to reduce emissions in the U.S. is that if major polluters like China and India don’t also reduce their emissions, a U.S. effort won’t make a difference. But Davis said that the study’s conclusion that China’s emissions directly affect the U.S. proves that the world needs to “move beyond placing blame” and realize that reducing pollution is within everyone’s common interest.

“We’ve outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us,” Davis said. “Given the complaints about how Chinese pollution is corrupting other countries’ air, this paper shows that there may be plenty of blame to go around.”

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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10:27AM PST on Jan 29, 2014

What is the difference between this and chemical warfare?
So the built a weapon, they didn't know was a weapon.

Like when we hear of an axe murderer.

Just because he used a tool, doesn't mean its not murder.

This is bad.

7:35PM PST on Jan 28, 2014

way too many people .....

10:48AM PST on Jan 28, 2014

Chemical warfare! Chemical warfare!

9:04AM PST on Jan 28, 2014


7:00AM PST on Jan 28, 2014

Thank you for the article.

8:26PM PST on Jan 27, 2014

we should just bomb them and take over their country. o_o

2:05PM PST on Jan 26, 2014

I have often thought China is engaging in some kind of pollution-warfare, including against it's own people.

1:27PM PST on Jan 26, 2014

Get used it...China is a MENACE.

6:46AM PST on Jan 26, 2014

Our poor earth.

6:10AM PST on Jan 26, 2014

Clean air, water and foodstuffs are more important to me than anything else. Why are some so blind....maybe it's all that smog.

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