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

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Lucas Kolasa
Lucas Kolasa4 years ago

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.

Connie O.
Connie O4 years ago

way too many people .....

Sandi C.
Sandi C4 years ago


Jelena Radovanovic
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you for the article.

Catrina Therrien
Catrina Therrien4 years ago

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

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago

Get used it...China is a MENACE.

Lis T.
Elisabeth T4 years ago

Our poor earth.

Katie K.
Katie K4 years ago

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

Deborah W.
Deborah W4 years ago

China air pollution ... Fukushima disaster. Results of learning from the master of misuse and abuse. No matter what the U.S. now tries to "correct" this out-of-control situation, they have no such plans to resolve their issues so, wait for it to come back around and bite us in the ass. In ways large and small, invested or disinterested, we ALL share stewardship of this one planet ... own it

Marianne R.
Marianne R4 years ago