Choking on Particles

by CherryBlossom on Février 9, 2016 - 8:05am

Air pollution in China is not a new issue yet it is a growing one. On December 9th 2015, Beijing saw its “first-ever 72-hour pollution red alert” because of the high level of micro-particles found in the air, that is 600 on the Air Quality Index. The reported level must be less than 25 to be considered as non-dangerous. In his article in Discovery News “China Pollution: How Bad Can the Air Get?”, Patrick J. Kiger asserts that these particles are very harmful for the health of the enormous Beijing population since they can lead to heart, lung and brain problems such as, asthma, heart attacks and strokes.

There are many causes of the on-going air pollution problem in the capital of china. The geographical location of the city is an important one. The mountains surrounding the city imprison the harmful gas emissions. Also, the use of coal and the lack of an efficient pollution control system add to the problem. Lastly, some emissions are also coming from nearby factories.

To reduce the amount of smog in the city, some factories have been closed and an “odd-even license plate system” has been put in place.

Residents are wearing masks to protect their airways however, these are inefficient at keeping the particles out which are capable of passing through the material. Their health is still at harm. According to Richard Muller, scientist and founder of Berkeley Earth, being exposed to a level of 250 on the particle scale is the “equivalent of smoking one-and-a-half cigarettes every hour.”

Air pollution in China is a growing problem and so is the number of deaths it leads to. On average, every year the air quality of the country is the cause of 1.6 million deaths. 

Lastly, the pollution problems in China might have effects on other countries. By means of the Jet stream, the particles could be transported to America.

I chose this article because I have asthma and I know what it is like to struggle for air. However, I am lucky to have access to clean Canadian air and cannot imagine the struggle a Chinese asthmatic has to face every day. I have had two important asthma attacks when I was a child and it is heart breaking to know that innocent and healthy children are being raised in an environment that can kill them.

There is not much we can do in Canada to directly help with the crisis in Beijing. However, diminishing our country’s carbon dioxide emissions will have an impact on the entire planet. 

As Canadians we are lucky to have good air quality, however let us not forget that it is not rare to observe smog clouds above Montréal. China’s situation is an eye opener to the whole planet warning us of what awaits us if we do not act towards the expanding pollution problem.


Reference: J.Kiger, Patrick. “China Pollution: How Bad Can the Air Get?”.Discovery News. December 9, 2015. Web.