Sunday, November 3, 2013

Air pollution in China

I am old enough to remember before the US passed clean air laws, and we had a smog attack. Yuck.

even now, I have to use my inhaler when I travel in Manila and it is cloudy. Most of the pollution there is from automobiles.

In London, smog from small heaters caused the yellowish skies in many Victorian paintings
The sunlight pierces the smoggy sky over London's Houses of Parliament (Image: Christies Images/Corbis)
 Charles Dickens describes the sooty fog:
Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

But it was the Great Smog of 1948, caused by a new coal burning plant, that really made people worry. More HERE from the BBC

and in the US, the Donora smog incident, from a local steel plant, killed many in the US.

So one of the health stories out of China is that they have a major smog problem that is affecting health, because they burn coal (locally mined).

They are trying to import oil to burn instead (now buying it from Iraq instead of Iran) and the problem is succinctly discussed on StrategyPage 

China needs a lot more oil because it is desperate to reduce its use of coal, which is causing more and more air pollution in the north and northeast. The annual “heating season” is in full swing up north and with that comes more coal burning and more air pollution. Foreign analysts have looked at Chinese health and life-expectancy data and concluded that the air pollution problems in northern China have reduced life expectancy up there by at least five years. ...

The pollution is believed to cause over a million premature deaths a year and the censors have been unable to keep Chinese from knowing this, or discussing it. ...

The problem is that coal use has more than quadrupled in the last two decades because of economic growth and increased demand for electricity and more heat. Fewer Chinese are willing to just shiver through the months of cold weather in the north as they have for centuries. They can now afford heat and coal is the cheapest solution

NYTimes story here 
essentially says the same thing I did.

Here in the provinces, burning trash was a big problem (we now have trash collection and a landfill dump to place the trash, which has helped a lot). But even here, when the weather is foggy/humid, I often run the airconditioner at night to keep the dust/humidity down in the bedroom. ( I have an airfilter added to the air intake to collect dust).

Right now, lots of such burning because we were hit by a typhoon two weeks back and lost a lot of roofs, houses, trees, and were without electricity/internet for ten days.

And our part time maid is always hitting on me to buy LPG gas to cook with: Her son ends up with bronchitis/allergies when she runs out, so it is cheaper to give her money for gas than treat her son.

burning wood to cook with is a major reason for asthma in the poor countries, and in places like Africa is a major cause of deforestation.

Even in the USA, wood stoves to heat with can add to the foggy morning air, and the mold on the wood stored in the houses can cause asthma/allergies 

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