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Map of global air-particulate pollution  (Source: Aaron van Donkelaar, Dalhousie University)
Industrial sector of this region has the highest concentration of particulates

Canadian scientists have developed a map of global air-particulate pollution using National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite data, and it shows that China's air quality is very poor compared to the rest of the world. 

Aaron van Donkelaar and Randall Martin from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada created the map using satellite data because they believed ground-based detection would be "spotty" in areas or nonexistent. The data used for the map is from 2001 to 2006. 

The map of global air-particulate pollution shows fine particulate matter density worldwide through color-coding, where white and dark blue areas have the lowest concentration of particulates and dark red areas have the highest concentration of particulates. The reddest part of the entire map is Eastern China's industrial area.

Despite the fact that the data used for the map is from 2001 to 2006, The Wall Street Journal noted in July that China's air quality is getting worse, and has not improved since the time period of this data.

In fact, more recent studies, such as the research conducted by a team of scientists who studied air pollution along the Yangtze River Delta in China, proves that China's air quality is only getting worse. This particular study concluded that the Yangtze River Delta is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and the "fastest growing economic development region in China." The area has seen drastic increases in atmospheric emissions and energy consumption, which led the team of researchers to use the Community Multiscale Air Quality model along with an emission inventory to measure baseline concentrations in order to calculate health risks and construct control strategies.

Many health issues arise from poor air quality because fine particulates are capable of passing the body's cilia defenses and penetrating the lungs and blood. Bronchitis, cardiovascular disease and asthma are a few of the illnesses that can come from poor air quality. Through both of these studies, researchers can better understand what China is up against and can develop ways to counter it, saving hundreds of millions of people who live in this area from chronic disease.

This study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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Where are all the environmentalists
By DoeBoy on 9/28/2010 2:24:33 PM , Rating: 5
In a world where apparently only the US can do wrong in the way of the environment it seems to me that none of the environmentalists are on China's back about its horribly polluting ways. Lets remember that the wind currents take that pollution east and can hurt the air quality for everyone east of there. We are so busy arguing about anthropogenic causes of global warming that nobody is even bothering to chastise the Chinese for having few if any environmental laws at all. Maybe they need a couple of Cuyahoga rivers burning in their neck of the woods to start caring.. thou I doubt that would even matter.

By Smartless on 9/28/2010 2:51:59 PM , Rating: 2
The environmentalists are probably too busy tweeting about it on their iPads.

RE: Where are all the environmentalists
By EJ257 on 9/28/2010 2:58:09 PM , Rating: 5
The environmentalist's bag of tricks only work in western democracies. If they try to pull the same thing over in China I doubt they would last two minutes. Remember the Tiananmen square incident on June 4, 1989? China has it in their national agenda to become the world's leading industrial powerhouse and things like pollution control are secondary to achieving their goal.

RE: Where are all the environmentalists
By FaaR on 9/28/2010 7:14:27 PM , Rating: 5
The "environmentalists' bag of tricks" is what saves us westerners from having to live like people in China, with lead paint on toys and plastic additives in milk powder to mention but two examples which were brought to light in the west, whereas countless others go on undetected in China.

Do you REALLY want to be without environmentalists? Are you nuts? What would be better by that, you hate the environment or something?

By priusone on 9/28/2010 8:27:22 PM , Rating: 1
I totally agree with both of, that is if I though about the world in black and white. I hate how environmentalists have cost the US tens of thousands, if not way more, but like you said, lead in paint sucks.

Ever read about London during Englands Industrial Revolution? Same thing happened here, but thankfully the US has more land to spread the factories out.

Yeah, polution sucks, but China's agenda is different than that of the western countries. We talk about creating jobs while they actually create them, be it in horrid conditions, the fact still remains, they are actually doing something instead of just talking.

RE: Where are all the environmentalists
By TSS on 9/29/2010 10:33:46 AM , Rating: 1
Yes. I'd totally want to be without enviromentalists and replace them with rational people. Who understand what can and cannot be done, as well as understand the real dangers and benifits of certain technologies.

You don't have to be an enviromentalist to care about the enviroment.

By PaterPelligrino on 9/30/2010 4:14:46 AM , Rating: 2
What is happening in China is the unregulated free market at work. Libertarians should rejoice that the Chinese gov't allows its industry to do what they bloody well want.

You take away the EPA and give American industry free reign to pursue profit and the same thing would be happening over here; the same thing did happen over here until the gov't came down on polluters. Google 'Love Canal' or the Cuyahoga River - the river than caught fire - if you think businesses in the US can be blindly trusted to do the right thing

You don't have to be an environmentalist to care about the environment.

That's a contradiction in terms: the vast majority of environmentalists are just ordinary people who care about the environment. I consider myself an environmentalist, but I don't spend my weekends in the forest talking to the trees.

By nolisi on 9/28/2010 5:32:31 PM , Rating: 5
In a world where apparently only the US can do wrong in the way of the environment it seems to me that none of the environmentalists are on China's back about its horribly polluting ways

No, environmentalists do condemn China and there are environmental organizations in China- do a little research and you will find them. In fact, you could have typed less into Google to find this info than you did in your post criticizing environmentalism with this inaccurate claim.

The problem is that China has a horrible human rights record to begin with. You need a government which believes in basic human rights first. Keep in mind there's what happens, then there's what's reported. Environmentalist comments on this topic aren't reported because it's not the attention grabbing headline.

RE: Where are all the environmentalists
By Shuxclams on 9/28/2010 6:26:25 PM , Rating: 5
<sarcasm> God makes more air, pollution is just a theory. This is just another eco-terrorist plot to raise taxation on the American workers to pay for the united nations takeover</sarcasm>


By YashBudini on 9/28/2010 7:45:29 PM , Rating: 2
What on earth activated your W gene?


RE: Where are all the environmentalists
By IcePickFreak on 9/28/2010 7:57:30 PM , Rating: 2
Makes you happy about the "sky is falling" campaign over pollution in the US when a big portion of our jobs are being shipped to China to make all these "green" products. So now they can get cheap labor and still mark up the retail price since marketing came up with a really snazzy "Enviro-friendly" logo to slap on it. The Italian Mafia must be envious of the world-wide racket being run by big business and governments. Or banks loansharking the peasants money to buy the now unfordable products.

Funny how the government has no problem mandating things deemed "environmentally responsible" when it cuts into the low/middle-classes dollar, but pretend to not see any problems with companies sending work over to China and then importing it back into the country. Surely they did a multi-million dollar investigation that buying more equipment for reducing/recycling greenhouse gases costs more money than not buying it. I guess some arbitrary government commitee didn't get it's funding to study that building stuff in China with sub-par working and living conditions, a forced monetary value, and no environmental policy and shipping it half way around the world still pollutes - so much for altruism. They might have better luck once they conclude their current study on "WTF are we going to do when the tax payers have no money left to tax?" Bottom line, cutting into big business' dollar means cutting into campaign funds.

RE: Where are all the environmentalists
By Paj on 9/29/2010 8:27:12 AM , Rating: 2
What the hell are you on about?

By vcolon on 9/29/2010 7:58:31 AM , Rating: 2
China has the USA by the balls. They own our debt.
Where's Al Gore now?

RE: Where are all the environmentalists
By masamasa on 9/29/2010 12:19:13 PM , Rating: 2
If you've ever been to Eastern China you know just how bad the pollution is and that nobody gives a *** about the environment. Since the dollar is priority one in China, I doubt we'll see any changes in the near future to address those problems until it gets to the point where they are forced to address them (i.e. lack of food, water, etc.)

By Ptosio on 9/30/2010 4:42:16 PM , Rating: 2
China is currently building 23 nuclear reactors versus 1 in the United States.

So please don't say they're doing nothing to address those problems because in fact they are actually acting instead of just talking.

By The0ne on 9/30/2010 6:47:51 PM , Rating: 1
That's cause US is a pussy whereas as China is a badass. You preach there you die or disappear, simple as that. So come pretend to be brave in US everyone, it's great.

No way...
By Sazabi19 on 9/28/2010 2:11:44 PM , Rating: 5
This is surprising in the least to anyone...

RE: No way...
By Stuka on 9/28/2010 2:33:40 PM , Rating: 2
I'm surprised that parts of the US are not more orange. The haze in "teal" Phoenix can be pretty bad, so I can't imagine what "burgundy" is like.

RE: No way...
By Proxes on 9/28/2010 2:42:14 PM , Rating: 3
From what I read China's air is so bad you cough up black phlegm. There's a reason people walk around with masks on all the time and it's not because of bird flu.

RE: No way...
By quiksilvr on 9/28/2010 4:09:42 PM , Rating: 2
That's what happens when you have two billion people breathing in one spot.

RE: No way...
By AssBall on 9/28/10, Rating: 0
RE: No way...
By amanojaku on 9/28/2010 4:35:39 PM , Rating: 2
Only if you wanted me to commit suicide.

RE: No way...
By rudolphna on 9/28/2010 4:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
I know. I saw the title, and I instantly burst out with

No, really? Who whoddathunkit?

RE: No way...
By JarredWalton on 9/28/2010 4:44:25 PM , Rating: 3
So here's a question: where do most of our "green" hybrid vehicles get manufactured? How about their batteries? I've always wondered about that: if you make a battery using a horribly unenvironmental plant in China, are we just moving our pollution over there? I would be interested in seeing a study done on how much waste products are involved in the creation of all the Li-Ion batteries and what not that we use in all our electronics.

RE: No way...
By walk2k on 9/28/2010 7:46:10 PM , Rating: 5
I hope all you teabaggers and libertarians and other business-first anti-government types are paying attention. This is what you get when you let "the free market" decide.

Deserts the main culprit
By bpurkapi on 9/28/2010 2:28:36 PM , Rating: 2
A quick glance at the map, shows that areas of desert have bad air quality. Look at Africa as the prime example that stretch of red is due to the Sahara. China's air quality is horrible, because it has the Gobi desert nearby, and a ton of coal power plants. Every year there are giant dust storms that ravage Beijing. Desert + Industry = Black Lungs.

RE: Deserts the main culprit
By Sazabi19 on 9/28/2010 2:39:25 PM , Rating: 1
No, asbestus = black lungs :P"

RE: Deserts the main culprit
By theArchMichael on 9/28/2010 3:23:04 PM , Rating: 3
At first glance, I'd say you're right. But, why wouldn't their be a substantial impact in the region of the mojave desert in california, the great sandy desert in Australia or the namibian desert in South Africa?

The last two places lack the population density and industry you stated in your post. But the West Coast of North America... under your assumption there should be much more particulate activity there. Also from the map it doesn't as though particulate matter is confined to the Gobi desert and it's immediate surrounding area. It also extends all the way past China's South Sea.

RE: Deserts the main culprit
By Aloonatic on 9/29/2010 7:59:33 AM , Rating: 2
I was thinking the same things as you an the OP.

I guess that it is probably significant that Australia is an (all be it very large) island, and California has both the gulf and Pacific not too far from it.

I know nothing about weather patterns and winds and such, so I can only speculate that the distances between the deserts in Africa and China and the oceans whist also being part of the the larger Eurasians/African land mass has an effect.

Indeed, if you look at that picture, it seems that there is a big swipe of pollution going from China to Africa, all along a big land mass, quite far from big oceans. Where as the areas that you point out are close to oceans and possibly stronger winds or winds that better clean the air naturally?

Just thinking out aloud, so I hope that makes sense :o)

RE: Deserts the main culprit
By Rugar on 9/28/2010 6:05:21 PM , Rating: 2
It's a semi-accurate statement, but you are looking at it somewhat backwards. The prevailing winds in the northern hemisphere travel east to west. Large dust storms in both the Sahara and the Gobi produce large increases in particulate counts, but these are blown to the west and north rather than to the east and south.

If you look at the map, the eastern parts of equatorial Africa show lower concentrations of particulate matter than the west. Once you cross the Sahara however, you'll notice a rapid increase in particulate matter consonant with the prevailing winds carrying dust to these regions. Eastern China on the other hand has no major dust source to its east and the authors are most likely correct that the source of the observed particulate matter there is anthropogenic.

As to the comment about why dust from the Mojave wouldn't effect the western parts of the US in the same way... two answers. 1) Size. The Mojave is about 1/2 the size of the Gobi and 1/15 the size of the Sahara. There just isn't as much area to make the same impact. 2) Wind. Off the west coast of the US, the cooler ocean waters provide an onshore airflow meaning that, locally, the primary wind flow pattern is from west to east. As this cool, moisture laden ocean air hits the Sierra Nevada range, it dumps it's moisture as rain and snow. Any particulates which are coming from the Mojave will be entrained in this precipitation and "scrubbed" clean.

what is the deal with the saharah
By rudy on 9/28/2010 3:51:39 PM , Rating: 2
Not haveing much of any people why are the results so bad in nothern africa? Maybe this study is not based on real polution but correlates it to some other metric

By neothe0ne on 9/28/2010 3:58:56 PM , Rating: 4
The Sahara Desert is full of sand.

RE: what is the deal with the saharah
By Rugar on 9/28/2010 6:08:35 PM , Rating: 2
What Neo said. Particulate matter is a fine proxy for pollution once you correct for non-anthropogenic sources such as dust.

Green Technology does have a purpose
By krotchy on 9/28/2010 2:25:48 PM , Rating: 2
Who cares whether Global warming is real or not, this is the real reason to focus on alternative and green technologies.

I visited Beijing and Nanjing and the air was literally thick like fog just from the smog. There were times at the great wall where I could barely make out the wall on the hillside across from me.

RE: Green Technology does have a purpose
By Targon on 9/28/2010 3:30:09 PM , Rating: 2
Here's the problem, the Chinese Government is considered one of the worst on the planet in terms of human rights. The Chinese people, government sponsored or not are sending out spam, and other "cyber attacks" left and right with no one even trying to do anything to stop it. It is a telling sign of how bad China is when an earthquake over there reduces global spam levels by 75 percent.

So, why should the world worry if the Chinese Government via bad policies ends up exterminating its own population via pollution? I am all for improving the environment and reducing pollution, but trying to save China is the WRONG thing to do. Perhaps if the people over there end up sick enough, they will finally overthrow their oppressive government and replace it with one that isn't as bad.

And no, I am not saying I care for the way the US government has been acting either, but at least many Americans still believe in the idea of freedom, and doing the right thing.

By Grabo on 9/29/2010 11:33:00 AM , Rating: 2
I keep figuring that too, that someday they really ought to realize that they cannot take the express train to Western standards when they're 1.3 billion people.

Most every piece of news about the country isn't fantastic though. Regarding their purchase of Volvo 'It's good, Chinese people like big cars' , 'Chinese on the whole don't care so much about car pollution, that's the industry's problem'.

You've got this gigantic middle class that is doing what it can to consume as much as possible, and a one child policy that promotes 'little emperors'. Well, air pollution and other forms of pollution may spread beyond its borders, but China will suffer the most due to China's stupidity.

Link to large map
By lennylim on 9/28/2010 3:48:26 PM , Rating: 4
In case anyone is interested (without wanting to follow the links) :

By Ammohunt on 9/28/2010 2:25:58 PM , Rating: 3
Aren't Sharper Image air purifiers made in China?

By LordSojar on 9/28/2010 3:00:17 PM , Rating: 1
Have all 1.5 billion Chinese people go to that area, breathe in all that nasty air, hold their breath, run over to Sibera, and exhale. POOF, pollution gone.

Thanks Robin Williams for your pollution ending solutions!

By YashBudini on 9/28/2010 7:52:17 PM , Rating: 2
Well we could place our own Chamber of Commerce there, they have never gotten the point.

By cknobman on 9/28/10, Rating: 0
RE: Why?
By 1reader on 9/28/2010 5:37:58 PM , Rating: 2
Idiot, the problem isn't overpopulation, it's efficiency, or the lack thereof.

Some thoughts to ponder
By Bengul on 9/29/2010 12:16:32 AM , Rating: 2
Yes China has very serious pollution problems, but it is too simple to just point the finger at China. It would be crazy to say that their problems have nothing to do with the west. Why do so many US and EU countries produce their products in China? Because it is not sustainable in their own countries. Let's face it, the majority of industry is simply not sustainable. If it was they would still be manufacturing in the US (I wonder what the pollution map would look like then?).

Lead in paint, cutting corners on quality. These are serious problems and there are many reasons why they occur. But I wonder what it would be like if you didn't have US and EU companies squeezing every dollar out of already very meager profit margins, playing suppliers off one another, or demanding that you next year give me the same product for x% cheaper or we go somewhere else.

China is getting more expensive. Eventually it will no longer be sustainable for our "sustainable" western companies and they will move somewhere else to exploit the cheap labor and lax environmental regulations.

On another note, China does have environmental and labor laws (some of which are more stringent than the west), although there is still a problem with implementation in many regions. China is also one the largest investors in renewable energy in the world
Last year, China doubled the investment the US made in clean energy, spending more than 34.6 billion to our 18.6 billion (

If we really want to solve the problem we need to address the issues at the company or consumer level. Either we as consumers need to be willing to pay more or companies need to be willing to make less profit. Right now we have the exact opposite occurring.

Lets face it, under the current model jobs in manufacturing will not be coming back to the states anytime soon, whether it is China or any other country doing the manufacturing.

By Thelookingglass on 9/29/2010 10:56:34 AM , Rating: 2
People criticize China for its poor human rights standards. These critics are ignorant idealists and don't understand how the world works.

I've been to China 3 times in the past 2 years for business. China is already expanding far too fast to support itself. They will likely peak within 20 years. After that there are only a few options.

1. Lower birth rates through law or force. Which they already do by enforcing monetary penalties on families with additional children and state sponsored, easily accessible abortions.

2. Limit life expectancy through negligence and rationing of medical care.

3. Forcibly annex neighboring countries to control and devour their resources.

These are things that China must do to create the most good for the largest number of people. Which is realistically all our race can do while limited to a single planet with finite resources.

China will either become a strain on the world through resource depletion and war. Or China will implode and there will be a massive loss of life as the country copes with limited resources.

These statements are supported by pure mathematics and have been echoed in books written by experts in the field.

China does what it must to preserve itself. They know as well as we do, their country and prosperity is on the verge of collapse.

Well would you look at that!
By hsew on 9/29/2010 10:53:34 PM , Rating: 2
Look at all the hypocritical environmentalists (and the UN) who bash US about pollution and want to impose regulations on US while turning a blind eye to China! It's as if the rest of the world hates US and they want to choke (haha) US by any means necessary!

By MarkK02474 on 9/30/2010 8:01:05 AM , Rating: 2
The data only shows particulate levels, not their sources, yet, publicity seekers extrapolate that for bold statements and more funding for their satellite imaging projects.

We already knew burning coal and diesel fuel produces particulates. Too many cashmere sweaters does too - ever larger goat herds eat all grasses, roots and all to make dust bowls. That and sand storms are not pollution, but show as brown on the map.

NASA does not have the best data here to make bold claims. Analysis of air samples showing dirt, sand, and carbon particle composition is better data.

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