News / USA

    Study: Chinese Exports Linked to US Pollution

    Pollution Outsourced to China Returns to USi
    X
    January 22, 2014 11:14 PM
    The smog that frequently chokes China comes partially from factories that supply the rest of the world with shoes, toys, electronics and other goods -- according to a new study. But as VOA’s Steve Baragona reports, some of that pollution made in China also winds up being exported.
    Roughly one quarter of the air pollution choking China comes from factories supplying the rest of the world with shoes, electronics, toys, and almost everything else, according to a new study.
     
    But according to a team of U.S. and Chinese researchers, the smog made in China does not stay there. Findings of their work published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicate the pollution is drifting across the Pacific Ocean and clouding air in the United States.
     
    Focusing on 2006, the study finds that export industries produce one-third of China’s sulfur dioxide, one-fourth of its nitrogen oxides, one-fourth of its carbon monoxide, and one-sixth of its black carbon.
     
    By first analyzing the amount of pollution generated by producing each good or service, the group then determined what proportion of those goods and services was exported.
     
    Study co-author Steven Davis at the University of California, Irvine, says the research places images of the heavily polluted country in a different context.
     
    “Maybe a quarter of what you are seeing when you see pictures of that Chinese pollution and everyone wearing masks has to do with goods they are making for other parts of the world,” he said.
     
    Of the export-related pollution, 21 percent was due to trade with the United States, the researchers said, a significant portion of which boomeranged back to China.
     
    Using atmospheric models, the researchers determined that as much as a quarter of the sulfur dioxide polluting the air over the western United States that year came from China.
     
    California Air Resources Board officials say the Los Angeles area had 120 excessive-ozone days in 2006, of which, atmospheric models indicate, Chinese pollution contributed to two extra days.
     
    “We do have pollution still in this country,” Davis said. “We are not completely blameless.”
     
    But the pollution did not stop at the West Coast. Chinese emissions also added two non-compliant days in Chicago and the surrounding areas, which had fewer than 10 in 2006, and regions on the East Coast were affected as well.
     
    The authors note that while Chinese air has grown dirtier, it has grown cleaner in the northern and eastern United States as manufacturing has leave these regions — often for China.
     
    “What this paper is saying is that China is playing a role in terms of polluting U.S. air," said Texas A&M University atmospheric chemist Renyi Zhang, who was not involved in the research. "But the United States is actually playing a role as well because we are exporting the trading to the Chinese.”
     
    That, says Davis, puts some of the onus for China’s polluted air on the United States and the other countries that rely on its export industries.
     
    “Insofar as you believe consumers somewhere down the road should bear some responsibility for the pollution that goes on to produce the goods and services they are consuming, the rest of the world has some responsibility to help China clean up that problem,” he said.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Daikanyama, TKO
    January 25, 2014 6:46 PM
    OK. Let's stop exporting from China, and crush Chinese economy. That is the only one solution to make world better.

    by: MikeBarnett from: USA
    January 24, 2014 1:07 PM
    Since 1972, the US has encouraged China to be more like the US, and it has succeeded in the areas of economic and industrial development that have also brought pollution. China recently passed the US in overall pollution, but each American produces four times as much pollution as each Chinese citizen. China exceeds US pollution because it has four and one half times as many people as the US.

    In late 2011, at the Durban Climate Change Conference, China presented a $1.7 trillion, 22 point, 5 year ($340 billion per year) plan to reduce pollution. The first results should be noticed by mid-2014 and should continue through late 2016 when the next 5 year pollution reduction plan should begin. Three decades of fast economic growth will take decades to clean.

    In the 1970's, Canada complained of US coal plants sending acid rain to Canada's eastern forests, but the US rejected the claim of its northern NATO ally. The US will have difficulty accusing China of any responsibility for pollution that is measured in the US owing to past US denials of US responsibility. The US should work with China and share anti-pollution technology that will aid both countries and the entire world. The earth is one planet with one atmosphere that all living things must breathe, so cooperation is necessary.

    by: Vu from: Japan
    January 23, 2014 9:03 PM
    " the rest of the world has some responsibility to help China clean up that problem" ← why ???? China has been using all means to make their fotune and now they are asking for the help ? LoL
    Remember that the products that the world is consuming is not produced in China only , there are a lot produced in VietNam, Indonesia, Thailand,etc as well , but why in those countries , the polution issue is not like that in China ??
    In Response

    by: MikeBarnett from: USA
    January 24, 2014 4:08 PM
    To: Vu from Japan

    The reason for the "responsibility" is in two parts. In my earlier comment, I pointed out that America was the carrot, but Japan was the stick. In the 1930's and 1940's, Japan invaded China with artillery, machine guns, tanks, and aircraft. China suffered great losses and decided to build the industrial power needed to prevent technologically advanced countries from inflicting such losses on China again.

    The second part is that much of China's eastern industrial base extends from Harbin to Shanghai, and earth's prevailing winds move air from west to east. If Japan chooses to ignore China's pollution, then Japan will transform its sky into a gas chamber to increase lung diseases for its citizens. Cooperation in control of China's pollution is better than fighting diseases in Japan.
    In Response

    by: Sino-phobia from: Rest of the World
    January 24, 2014 1:26 AM
    "why in those countries , the polution issue is not like that in China ??"-----The answer to this question is very simple. That is becasue Chinese are irresponsible for every thing; for instance, they export toxic food for other countries' children, meat including cardboard. Chinese have no sense of ethics and do not mind whether or not other people will be killed by chinese food.

    by: Dave from: Wisconsin
    January 23, 2014 1:58 PM
    They had to do a study to figure that out?!?!

    by: Frank from: O. County, USA
    January 23, 2014 5:19 AM
    Chinese are trouble makers who pollute air of the whole world, invade and bully the neighboring countries, export poisonous food, rob other countries of natural resources, and do other evil things. Chinese will be choked by PM 2.5 produced by themselves.

    by: SR from: Guanzhou
    January 23, 2014 4:34 AM
    pot is calling the kettle black.

    by: Beilei from: China
    January 23, 2014 2:34 AM
    I think what Davis said is too subjective, maybe he should do a experiment test one product and test how much polluted air left when across Parcific where the air is windy, clean and flow very well. Academic Journal should forbid this kind of no-evidence views.

    by: Chris Brown
    January 22, 2014 5:28 PM
    Hope a solution is found. What are the main causes of the Chinese exports causing the pollution.

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