Effects of Pollution in China

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In the last two decades, the air pollution in China has increased substantially. The lack of good air quality is especially prominent in the more urban, industrialized areas of China. Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian warned, “If China meant to quadruple the size of its economy over 20 years without more damage, it would have to become more efficient in resource use. Otherwise, there would be a painful price to pay” (BBC News). The topic of air pollution is not a new concern to the world; however, the effects of air pollution, especially to the hundred of thousands of people directly or indirectly harmed by the side effects of “bad air,” should be of grave concern. According to the Ministry of Health, air pollution has made cancer the leading cost of death in China. Air pollution not only affects the people, but also the quality of fresh water, produce, and other natural resources. These kinds of environmental outcomes may seem erratic in other countries but unfortunately, it has become the norm in China. In fact, air pollution in China since the 1980’s has gotten so bad that many of the industrialized areas in Beijing and Shanghai rarely see the sun but rather clouds of smoke and fog. China, with its infamous reputation of becoming a global economic powerhouse, is ironically becoming its own downfall. In the midst of their tremendous economic and industrial growth, the energy outputs to support this growth are reaching an all-time high which means there is more residue of coal and fuel burning released in the atmosphere. In order to understand the extent of pollution in China, one must understand the environmental, social, and political aspects of it.

Currently, China is the leading nation in terms of population. Even though China has approximately 1.3 billion people living in its territory, the dangerous effects that pollution has taken upon the population is still of high concern although many people and government officials choose to not talk about it in order to not cause more burden on the already stressed country. According to the World’s Resource Institute, “respiratory disease is the number one cause of death in China” (World’s Resources Institute). In some regions, especially the major industrial zones in Hebei Province, rates of chronic lung disease are at least five times higher than the rest of the country. Even the women who do not smoke cigarettes and are living around those areas have the highest rates of lung cancer globally that pertains to the population of women who do not smoke (World’s Resources Institute). It is estimated that annual premature deaths attributable to outdoor air pollution were likely to reach 380,000 in 2010 and 550,000 in 2020 (BBC News). With these potential outcomes that are doubling every decade, China will face even more problems if these environmental issues are not dealt with now. In addition to air population, there is also the concern of water pollution which coincides with the big cycle of environmental distress. In addition, many people who live near concentrated areas of pollution do not know how to protect themselves well because they are unaware of the long term effects of inhaling the air and drinking the water.

Nearly half of China’s population consumes drinking water contaminated with animal and human waste and acidic rain and erosion. While there has been an overall decline in mortality from infectious diseases, diarrheal diseases and viral hepatitis, both associated with fecal pollution of water, are the leading infectious diseases in China (World’s Resources Institute). Because of contaminated, polluted water, China has the highest liver and stomach cancer deaths in the world. While the government is preoccupied with wanting to censor all this preventable chaos, many more people are becoming ill and dying from the lack of clean resources. Water pollution has become an intricate part of the problem as well. Many of the main rivers flowing through China...
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