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Chinese Pollution Is Making Its Way To North America
January 21, 2014
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A layer of smog covers downtown Los Angeles. New research shows that some pollution on the U.S. west coast comes directly from China. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Turns out China isn't just making cheap T-shirts and keychains for North Americans — it's making pollution for them, too. 

A new paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that pollution caused by Chinese exports directly affects air quality on the west coast of North America. The study was conducted over two years and analyzed data from 2006, looking at how strong winds helped pollutants travel from China to the United States. In fact, the study suggests that between 12 and 24 per cent of sulfate concentrations on the west coast of the United States originated from China. 

The study asserts that China's export industry is responsible for as much as 20 per cent of the country's pollution. The authors tracked specific contaminants like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphates that are emitted in the production of consumer items in China. The study's authors did not discount other sources of pollution, but attempted to link Chinese exports with pollution in the country buying them. 

“When you buy a product at Wal-Mart it has to be manufactured somewhere,” Steve Davis, an assistant professor at UC Irvine and co-author of the study, said in a press release. “The product doesn’t contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution.”

It's not news that the air pollution in China is bad — even if some media outlets were guilty of  hyperbolizing it this week. But this is the first study that attempts to directly link Chinese exports to North America with pollution in North America. Says Davis, "We've outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us."

Via The Verge


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