Air Pollution in China’s Cities: How Serious is it?

Around 10 years ago, my mother made a trip to China with a group of teachers. She excitedly relayed her experience and the amazing art, food, and culture she was able to experience. However, she had one major complaint, and that was the air quality. She said the difference was so noticeable, just after stepping off the plane and her nose and throat hurt a bit the first few days as she got used to the smog. The title of the article I read is “China’s Air Pollution Monitoring Network: Too Little, Too Late?” I’m sure everyone is well aware of the air pollution problems that China is facing, but I learned some new facts in this article that shocked me a bit at just how serious it is. One that really surprised me was a study done by the National Academy of Sciences, whom revealed that their studies indicated that someone living in the north of China has their life expectancy cut short by 5½ years due to the pollution. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s official, Xu Donggun, says that the smog in 2013 has affected 600 million people, which is nearly half the nation’s population. During last year’s national holiday in October, heavy smog caused for the shut down of more than 30 highways and even some airports in Beijing and the surrounding areas. The State Council has suggested a number of initiatives to help with the ever-increasing problem, such as shifting towards renewable energy sources, improving vehicle fuel quality, and downsizing the high-polluting industrial sectors. The people are complaining that despite all the talk of different programs that will be implemented or measures being taken, the amount of time seems too long. By the time the actual process of cleaning the air starts, how much worse will the situation be? The money and time needed to build a national monitoring system, and for everyone agree to new cleaner measures as well as downsizing major industrial centers may be harder and take longer than anticipated. I’m curious as to how big the difference is now as compared to when my mother went. She spent most of the trip in Beijing, which is one of the big problem cities, along with others such as Shanghai. I’d like to read more about the specifics of the measures China was planning on taking.

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