China’s Smog Impacts U.S. Air Quality, Study Finds

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SINGAPORE - JUNE 20: Friends mingle at the Marina Bay Waterfront as the city skyline is filled with smog on June 20, 2013 in Singapore. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) rose to the highest level on record reaching 371 at 1pm. The haze is created by deliberate slash-and-burn forest fires started by companies in neighbouring Sumatra. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
Jan. 21, 2014, 1:20 a.m.

The U.S. isn’t im­mune to the high con­cen­tra­tions of smog that fill the air in China. And do­mest­ic de­mand for Chinese ex­ports is part of the reas­on why, a study finds.

The New York Times re­ports that re­search pub­lished in the peer-re­viewed sci­entif­ic journ­al Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tion­al Academy of Sci­ences shows that pre­vail­ing winds known as west­er­lies fa­cil­it­ate the move­ment of pol­lut­ants, in­clud­ing dust, ni­tro­gen ox­ides. and car­bon, from China to the west­ern United States.

The study, which was un­der­taken by a group of nine aca­dem­ic re­search­ers, demon­strates a link between air pol­lut­ants in the U.S. that have mi­grated across the Pa­cific Ocean from China and the pol­lu­tion giv­en off by the pro­duc­tion of goods in China for ex­port abroad.

While the ef­fects of air pol­lu­tion in the U.S. from China is min­im­al com­pared with oth­er ma­jor sources of do­mest­ic in­dus­tri­al and com­mer­cial pol­lut­ants such as power plants, the study shows that U.S. con­sumers can­not en­tirely es­cape the en­vir­on­ment­al con­sequences of the bust­ling Chinese ex­port mar­ket.

The study also con­cluded that at­mo­spher­ic con­cen­tra­tions of pol­lut­ants in the U.S. were lower than they would be in the ag­greg­ate if the scale of man­u­fac­tur­ing that takes place in China to provide ex­por­ted products for do­mest­ic mar­kets were to take place on our soil rather than abroad. 

Nev­er­the­less, “this is a re­mind­er to us that a sig­ni­fic­ant per­cent­age of China’s emis­sions of tra­di­tion­al pol­lut­ants and green­house-gas emis­sions are con­nec­ted to the products we buy and use every day in the U.S.,” com­men­ted Alex Wang, a law pro­fess­or at UCLA with a fo­cus on Chinese en­vir­on­ment­al policy. “We should be con­cerned not only be­cause this pol­lu­tion is harm­ing the cit­izens of China but be­cause it’s dam­aging the air qual­ity in parts of the U.S.”

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