China’s Growing Pollution Problem

Samantha Zeitz

While nations around the world work towards limiting warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, China continues to grapple with its growing pollution problem. The air conditions in China are now so bad that parents have resorted to sending their children south to protect their health.

As hazardous smog has swept across major cities in China, parents are struggling to protect their children from pollution. Beijing United Family Hospital Pediatricians, Dr. Zhang Jiao says children are more “sensitive” to weather. It is not uncommon for them to experience a fever or cough related to air quality.

Mr. Yu; parent to a three-year-old son, told a Hong Kong newspaper that his solution was to send his son to southern Guangdong province. Although it may be more expensive, he felt it was the best decision he’s made in the last 12 months. Mr. Yu isn’t the only one uprooting his child. He claims that at least five other students from his son’s class have been sent south to escape the smog. Other families have also been sending the elderly south. Those who can’t flee from China’s pollution are trying to protect themselves with the use of facemasks and air purifiers.

The main sources of the pollution are coal combustion, vehicle exhaust, and improper burning of materials. The pollution rate rises throughout the winter as more coal is used to heat houses. The pollution contains particulate matter approximately 2.5 micrometers in size. This is small enough for it to enter the lungs and bloodstream of those who inhale it.

The matter is known to cause shortness of breath, irritated eyes and lungs, sneezing, and coughing. It can also aggravate asthma and heart disease during short-term exposure. During long-term exposure the pollution can increase risk of chronic bronchitis, lung disease, as well as heart and lung cancer. Currently, during red alert periods in affected areas, citizens wear gas masks. Sadly, this is becoming the new reality for those living in China.