China City Profile


Fenton Garvie - May 7 2015

Question How does the pollution levels affect the health of citizens and life expectancy?

Pollution in China has become so bad that the countries scientists have warned the citizens that the air that they are breathing in China resembles a nuclear winter, it is slowing the photosynthesis process in plants and is creating a huge problem in the countries food supply. With the air pollution getting worse and worse, there has already been a significant economic toll on the city such as grounding flights, closing highways and keeping tourists inside.

Pollution levels in Beijing effect the health of the citizens

In Beijing the AQI (air index which measures particles in the air per cubic meter) frequently goes above 300 and on January the 12 2013 the US Embassy in Beijing recorded 900. The scale was actually only designed to go up to 500. According to the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) if the readings ever go above 200, people with heart and lung diseases, or children should not participate in any physical activity outdoors.

"This is really the worst on record not only from the official data but also from the monitoring data from the U.S. embassy -- some areas in neighbouring Hebei province are even worst than Beijing," said Zhou Rong, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace.

The air pollution in Beijing has also cause babies to be born smaller. During the Beijing olympics in 2008, a study was conducted and surveyed the birth weights of 83,672 babies born in Beijing, this was during the time when the government had closed down a lot of industry, raised vehicles standards, and stopped construction. The massive government intervention cause pollution levels in the most polluted areas on hearth to have been reduced by 18% and 59% during the summer of 2008. The birth weight of babies were on average 12 grams higher for babies who were in 8 months pregnancy during the summer olympic games than during 2007 and 2009. These findings no only show the dire consequences of pollution but also shows that this problem can be reversed. Air pollution has been identified as one of the biggest environmental health risks facing people worldwide, and long term exposure to the severe pollution causes millions of deaths.

Pollution levels effect the weight of newborn babies

The AQI chart measures the weight of solid particles that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers wide that are in a meter cubed of air. In a densely populated area like Beijing, the particles are typically the result of industrial activity. When we breath in particles that are larger than 10 micro meters, they are usually filtered out by cilia or mucous that is found in our nose and mouth. But the particles that are smaller than 10 micrometers are not obstructed by these things and and are able to settle in our bronchi and lungs. But they don't just stop there, they go even further an enter tiny air sacs called alveoli and this is where the body exchanges carbon dioxide for oxygen, and over time, it causes serious damage. Many health problems have been linked to high levels of the pm 2.5, the most obvious one is lung cancer. One study that lasted 16 years found that over the course of a someones lifetime, an average increase of 10 on the AQI was associated with a 8 percent higher chance of developing the disease. The WHO (World health organisation) estimated that 5% of the deaths resulting from lung cancer worldwide - 800,000 deaths annually. There are also risks of even smaller particles that are 100 nanometers in size. Only a little research has beendentified as one of the biggest environmental health risks facing people worldwide, and long term exposure to the severe pollution causes millions of deaths.

Map showing the concentrated PM2.5 levels in China.

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