China’s leader declares war on toxic pollution

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

China smog
China’s smog, as seen from space. Notice how the white clouds fade to a sickly gray.

China’s head of government, Premier Li Keqiang, declared war on smog pollution during his major yearly speech. While delivering the Chinese equivalent of the USA president’s State of the Union address, where the nation’s leader speaks to the people about the country’s important issues, Li said that high pollution cars will be removed from the streets and coal-fired furnaces will be shut down. The severe pollution in China, especially in Beijing, has drawn criticism from both Chinese and international citizens.

Li says pollution is “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development,” criticizing the reckless expansion of pollution-causing industries that haven’t developed environmentally-friendly and cost-effective alternatives. The pollution is so bad in Beijing, they have to televise fake sunsets on a large screen TV, since the Sun is hidden behind the thick smog. People wear masks to protect their lungs from the air, which is no surprise considering that the World Health Organization, or the WHO, says air pollution is a leading cause of cancer deaths.

Toxic particles called PM 2.5 are tiny enough to penetrate the lungs, and the WHO says humans should limit their exposure to no more than 20 micrograms a day. Last December, Shanghai reported PM 2.5 levels over 600 micrograms, and the USA Embassy reported that Beijing got as high as 671 micrograms. This isn’t just China’s problem, either, as their pollution weakens the Earth’s protective atmosphere, leading to increased sunlight breaking through and warming the planet. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, China’s pollution is hitting the USA’s West Coast. In fact, China’s pollution increased America’s air pollution by 12-24% and adds enough to equal one extra day’s worth of smog in Los Angeles.

Featured image courtesy of Kevin Dooley on Wikimedia.