Trans-Pacific Air Pollution - A Rising Global Issue

by Ebby on January 29, 2014 - 5:08pm

The New York Times

China Exports Pollution to U.S., Study Finds

By Edward Wong

January 20th, 2014

In the most recent of several research papers published by the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science”, nine scholars from 3 different nations were able to measure how China’s export industries are creating emissions which travel across the Pacific Ocean and pollute the United States. Focusing on the environmental impact of overseas trading, researchers concluded that harmful contaminants such as dust, Ozone and carbon were being emitted from the export manufacturing companies off of the coast of the country, and being carried by large gusts of global wind (westerlies) into the Western areas of the U.S and the Californian valleys. According to researchers, due to the increase in global need for Chinese made products over the past centuries, and the location of their production, a rise in their exportation industry has spawned a trans-Pacific air pollution issue.

The study scientists discovered that what was of particular concern was the black carbon travelling across the Pacific Ocean. It was noted that as this specific strain of carbon cannot be washed out of the atmosphere by rain, it is able to travel over particularly long distances. When in it comes in contact with humans, black carbon has been linked to cause issues such as asthma, cancer, and heart and lung disease, etc.

Furthermore, through analyses of global weather patterns and the atmosphere, researchers not only discovered the trans-Pacific rise in air pollution, but also a decrease in air quality for the country of China itself. Compounds such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide were reported in 2006 as being emitted into the air through the Chinese export industries, and causing significant deterioration to the air quality in China. 

If the mass exportation of goods continues at such an increasing volume, what will the long term health risks of exposure to the harmful chemicals/compounds are for Chinese and American citizens? If exposure to toxins like black carbon is linked with serious health issues, then the long term risks of exposure to such pollutants could be devastating to the overall health of citizens in affected areas. Ethically, can we allow this pollution to continue to degrade our global air quality? And if not, then what new system could be adopted to replace our current interconnected trading system? Globally, we rely heavily on the exportation of Chinese goods due to cheap their manufacturing costs.  I am dubious as to whether or not we would be willing to move away from the cheaper Chinese goods and source our products locally as to limit external pollutions. Cost effectiveness seems to take precedent in our current society over environmental responsibility.  

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