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China dumps pollution on California

Paul Taylor

China’s size, growth and prosperity have become legendary. With one-quarter of the world’s population and the second largest economy it is not surprising that China has pollution problems. The recent Olympics held in China prompted the Peoples Republic of China to cut smog by drastically reducing motor vehicle use in Beijing. China will spend $255 billion over the next five years to improve air quality.

The scale and speed of China’s development has it consuming almost half of the world’s coal, copper, steel, nickel, aluminum and zinc for energy and manufacturing. China operates 200 coal-fired electric power plants, and builds a new power plant each week. The concentration of harmful coal-fired particulate air pollution (soot) has hit record levels in China – 40 times World Health Organization safe levels.

Human health is harmed due to the presence of small particulate air pollution, generally released from burning fossil fuels and other industrial activity. Such air particulate pollution can be very dangerous to breathe. Breathing particulate pollution may trigger illness, hospitalization and premature death (The Economist, August 10, 2013)

China has become a manufacturing and export power. Sadly, today there is a dangerous and unintended Chinese export -- particulate air pollution. The prevailing winds and atmospheric transport conditions send China’s particulate air pollution across the Pacific Ocean and into California. As much as 29% of particulate air pollution in California originates in Asia according to research conducted in 2007 and 2008. (The Atlantic Wire, April 3, 2013)

Here’s proof for those of you who live in larger California cities. The next time you wash your car, park it overnight in an open area. The next day, sweep your finger over the hood surface of your car. That smudge of dirt on your finger is 29% particulate air pollution from Asia, mostly from China.

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