The Problems of Air Pollution

Standard Page - 2011-06-22
Millions of people in China are breathing a hazardous cocktail of chemicals every day. These chemicals are caused by coal-fired power plants, factories and vehicles, and are responsible for heart disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses, birth defects and cancer.

Millions of people in China are breathing a hazardous cocktail of chemicals every day. These chemicals are caused by coal-fired power plants, factories and vehicles, and are responsible for heart disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses, birth defects and cancer.

Air pollution in China is mainly caused by burning coal in factories and power plants and oil combustion by vehicles.

The impacts of air pollution

Air pollution often has long-term health impacts that build-up slowly over time. It may also cause non-specific problems, such as weakened immunity. As such, it is often easy to overlook the health impacts of air pollution. That's why public education and outreach on the issue of air pollution is highly important.

Air pollution has been linked to increased incidences of cancer, heart disease, stroke and respiratory illnesses. On a less severe level, it is associated with asthma in children, and thus impaired quality of life for many kids.

Read more about the main kinds of pollutants and their health impacts.

Air pollution in China

With a booming economy and ever-increasing demand for energy, China has built new coal-fired power plants at an astonishing rate. Today, coal provides not only 80% of China's electricity, but also the lion's share of its air pollutants, from soot to sulphur dioxide.

While cars and trucks also contribute to air pollution in cities, it will be impossible to improve air quality in China without moving away from coal.

Coal burning is the biggest contributor of air pollution in Beijing and surrounding area, according to a University of Leeds study sponsored by Greenpeace East Asia. Previous studies have linked outdoor air pollution to premature deaths and child asthma in the industry-intensive region which arguably has the worst air quality in China.

China simply cannot afford to allow air pollution to continue taking such a heavy toll. The country's rapid growth in coal consumption has been brought on by extensive industrial expansion, which in turn, has increased pressure on the environment and public health conditions. In order to turn around the deteriorating air conditions, China must fundamentally change its development model, starting with a significant reduction in coal consumption.

Read more about air pollution in China.