Study: China Exports Contributing to Western U.S. Air Pollution
January 21, 2014 11:54 AM
Chinese pollution by exports contributed up to 12 percent to 24 percent of daily sulfate concentrations in the western United States
Despite the fact that manufacturing has largely been moved to China over the years, a new study shows that the western United States is being affected by pollution coming from across the Pacific.
The New York Times
, air quality is taking a hit in the western United States due to items being exported from China. The study was published in
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
by nine scholars.
The study, led by Jintai Lin -- a professor in the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Peking University’s School of Physics -- showed that Chinese pollution by exports contributed up to 12 percent to 24 percent of daily sulfate concentrations in the western United States.
In addition, the study found that sulfate concentrations went up by up to 2 percent while ozone and carbon monoxide levels saw slight increases in the western United States back in 2006.
Ultimately, researchers discovered that 36 percent of anthropogenic sulfur dioxide, 27 percent of nitrogen oxides, 22 percent of carbon monoxide and 17 percent of black carbon from Chinese emissions were linked to producing exported goods -- and about 21 percent of export-related emissions from China (for each pollutant) came from exports that traveled from China to the United States.
This is largely due to the fact that the production of exported goods in China grew 390 percent in volume between 2000 and 2007. This has caused a rise in fossil fuels (especially coal).
While Chinese manufacturing is a cause of U.S. pollution, winds called "westerlies" -- which send chemicals across the Pacific Ocean in a matter of days -- are major culprits. Western states in the U.S. have seen accumulations of dust, ozone and carbon.
The researchers in the study were able to calculate these conditions in 2006 through the use of a modeling system called GEOS-Chem, which utilized data on economics and emissions.
"Consideration of international cooperation to reduce trans-boundary transport of air pollution must confront the question of who is responsible for emissions in one country during production of goods to support consumption in another," the study's authors wrote.
So how is this problem supposed to be fixed? Don Wuebbles, co-author of the study and professor of atmospheric science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, suggested that the efficiency of manufacturing processes be improved and energy production be re-examined.
"Pollution from China is having an effect in the U.S., and we need to recognize how that is affecting both our background ozone levels and also particulates that are reaching the West Coast," said Wuebbles.
China's pollution problem is no secret. In July 2013, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study said that
heavy pollution in northern China
causes citizens in that area to have lower lifespans than those in the south. In fact, the study says that the 500 million people who live north of the Huai River will lose 2.5 billion years of life expectancy because of air pollution. More specifically, each northerner has a 5.5-year drop in life expectancy compared to southerners.
Last month, China was
having smog problems
to the point of closing schools and delaying or canceling flights. But the Chinese media put quite a spin on these recent problems with pollution, insisting that there are five benefits to choking on the air you breathe. These include that it unifies people; makes China more equal; raises citizen awareness of the cost of China's economic development; makes people funnier, and makes people more knowledgeable (of things like meteorology and the English word 'haze').
Way back in 2008, a NASA study said
15 percent of America's air pollution
is from Asia. A year before that, China became the world's
top CO2 emitter
The New York Times
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