Pollution in China and the USA

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Extent and Effects of Pollution in China

China has been regarded as the nation, which is capable to replace U.S.A as the world superpower. In the quest to become a superpower, China has made numerous investment and developments over the last 50 years. During this period, China has made magnificent steps towards becoming the fully industrialized, and this, in return, has led to the increase in urbanization, population and increase in demand for energy. All the above growths are favorable conditions for air, water and land pollution in China. The effects of pollution in China are very complex due to its magnitude. China as the country with world’s fastest increasing economy, has achieved another title as the nation with the most fatal pollution effects.

A report by World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 656,000 Chinese citizens die each year due to the diseases triggered by the indoor and outdoor air pollution. This is astonishing, considering that the WHO also showed estimates that only 2 million people around the world die from diseases related to air pollution. Therefore, China accounts for more than 25% of deaths related to air pollution in the world. The reason why solving the pollution problem in China is complex is given by Song and Wing (p.261), that China environmental damage can not be remedied in the short term because China has already passed the early phases of industrialization when environmental qualities are most compromised and easy to repair or remedy the damage(Song & Wing 262). Due to the scope and duration of pollution in China, some pollution effects have been created and cannot be solved in the near future unless China is willing to loose its quest for a world super power. Marquita (p.24) explains that China lacks to realize that despite the high economic gains, “when economic growth rates are adjusted for the economic damage caused by pollution, they fall almost to zero in some Chinese provinces. China will continue suffering from the immense effects of pollution if it is not ready to postpone its goal of becoming a superpower and introduce the environment friendly approaches and as a result to achieve this goal. The core in this topic is that China is in stern danger of washing out much of their economic development if they keep paying no attention to their problems of environmental pollution. The complexity gets in through the notion that the elimination of the pollution is considerably more expensive than avoiding it.

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Air Pollution

Air pollution in China has the most adverse pollution effects. The scope of air pollution is so strong that air in some cities is barely breathable hence, by European standards, only 1% of Chinese people breathe safe air (Marquita 23). The major contributors to this worrying and fatal trend are coal burning power plants, chemical factories and smelters, emitting sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide (Marquita 23). Chinas energy production is dependent on coal; two-third of it energy is sourced by coal. The remaining one third also contains air polluting objects such as the motor vehicles, which use low-grade gasoline, and burning of fossil oil. Air pollution affects both human and environmental health in China.

Human Health

The Northern part of China is the most affected by air pollution as most people living there use coal to heat homes during almost a whole year. Domestic use of coal leads to air pollution that guarantees the considerable health effects and diseases arising or spreading through the polluted air. However, the coal mined and used in the Southern part is reach on sulfur and tremendously polluting, resulting to serious harms due to acidic precipitation. Studies show that mortality rates are increased by 11 percent with each doubling of SO2 concentration in the environment.

As the air pollution increased, mortality due to the pulmonary and heart diseases has also increased considerably. The levels of air pollution in China surpass the standard of WHO guidelines, predominantly in winter where ambient air pollution is aggravated by climatic conditions and indoor burning of coal. The mode of the day in China is hospitalization, respiratory diseases, or doctor visits due to the increased concentrations of SO2 and TSP in China. The increased hospitalization, respiratory diseases, or unscheduled doctor visits is a clear indication that the scale of air pollution is eating up the hard earned cash and time in China, thus, reversing the economic development benefits. There are numerous effects on health caused by air pollution in China, especially considering the types and concentration of chemicals that a person is exposed to in China. The major and fatal exposure is from SO2 and lead. Lead exposure is associated with neurological damage, physical growth and impaired intelligence, especially among children.

Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution Effects

Urban outdoor air pollution
Premature deaths178,000
Respiratory hospital admissions346,000
Emergency room visits6,779,000
Lower respiratory infections or child asthma661,000
Asthma attacks75,107,000
Chronic bronchitis1,762,000
Respiratory symptoms5,270,175,000
Restricted activity days (years)4,537,000


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Indoor air pollution
Premature deaths111,000
Respiratory hospital admissions220,000
Emergency room visits4,310,000
Lower respiratory infections or child asthma420,000
Asthma attacks47,755
Chronic bronchitis1,121,000
Respiratory symptoms3,322,631,000
Restricted activity days (years)2,885,000

Both tables show that respiratory diseases are the major platforms through which air pollution affects the health of people in China. Urban outdoor air pollution has, however, a greater number of respiratory diseases than indoor air pollution due to the fact that the urban industries have a huge effect on air pollution. The list does not include short-term effects such as irritation to the nose, eyes and throat, and upper respiratory infectivity such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which are responsible for the increased unscheduled hospital visits. Other minor effects include nausea, headaches and allergic reactions, which often affect the daily productivity of a person

Environmental health. Pollution of air is worse for the environment than for human health as air pollution effects the environment and indirectly affect the humans. For example, it is clear that air pollution through the addition of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is responsible for global warming and, thus, climate. The climate change in turn is responsible for affecting the way living beings associate with the environment, and at most times the effects of climate change are fatal to the living beings within the particular environment. Global warming is a reality and is responsible for the unpredictable climate changes, which, as a matter of fact, make human inhabitation on earth quite difficult. There is a number of ways how air pollution affects the environment such as acidic rain, haze, ozone depletion and effects on wildlife.

Effects on wildlife. Just like the humans, animals can also be affected by toxic pollutants in the air. Exposure to high concentrations of toxic substances in the air over the time is responsible for such health effects on wildlife as reproductive failure, birth defects and diseases in wildlife in China.

Depletion of Ozone. The ozone can be both beneficial and harmful to human. At the ground level ozone can harm human health, but ozone of the upper layer of atmosphere, stratosphere, protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation of the sun. However, emissions of chlorofluorocarbons and hydro-chlorofluorocarbons from the industries in Chine are causing harm and depletion of the upper-layer ozone. The depletion is responsible for effects such as cataracts, skin cancer, impaired immune systems, destruction of crops and reduction in crop yields.

Crop and forest cover damage. Plants release oxygen to the air and absorb carbon dioxide during the process of photosynthesis. Air pollution has damaged crops and forest cover in China by reduction of growth and survivability of seedlings through environmental stresses and increased plant vulnerability to diseases and pests (due to acid rain and increased UV radiation).

Global climate change. Global warming is responsible for the worldwide climate change. This is as a result of the greenhouse effect inability to keep earths temperature at a stable state. But this is impossible, especially in such countries as China, which continually produce and add large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Presence of a huge amount of greenhouse gases helps only to trap more sun heat on Earth and, thus, creates the unpredictable climate changes. The effects of unpredictable pattern of climate change in China include the ever-present rise in sea levels and flooding. The global warming factor is also responsible for the decreasing in crop yields or the necessity to spend a lot of cash to sustain agriculture in China due to unfavorable for farming weather conditions.

Acidic rain. When fossil fuel is burned, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are released into the atmosphere, making acidic rain to occur through precipitation that contains dangerous quantities of nitric and sulfuric acids. The acidic rain is responsible for damaging, decaying and the rust factor of iron components in China.

Haze. Observing China from a satellite illustrates that tiny pollution particles are present in the air, thus, creating poor texture, clarity, color and form of what people see. This is the case in China, and it seems as if there is fog that makes observation obscure at times (see pic.1 and pic.2). The two photos depict the same location in 2010, showing the difference between a clear day (Pic.2) and a smoggy one (Pic.1) in Beijing.

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Water Pollution in China

Marquita (p.280) also notes China has the highest water pollution in the world. The scope of water pollution is also expected to be reflected in high effects of water pollution in China. Despite the Chinese investment in economic growth and urbanization, there has been ignorance on the importance of the clean water and clean water sources in China. Reports show that due to the lack of integration of proper water supply and treatment infrastructure to the urbanization and industrialization of China, water contaminations are widespread there. It is estimated that almost a half of the people in China (running to almost a billion people) consume unsuitable water for industrial use let alone irrigation and drinking water (Marquita 280). This extent of water pollution in China leads to numerous health and environmental problems. Water pollution has diverse effects on human health as it helps in spreading and generation of diseases. Contaminated water is a good ground for a number of disease-causing organisms and mosquitoes. Polluted water that contains chemicals is responsible for the growing number of cancer diseases, forming what has become to be known as cancer villages around the banks of polluted water bodies. The World Health Organization released the report that almost 100,000 people in China die every year from diseases related to water pollution. Some of the polluted water sourses are an eyesore to many people as they turn the water bodies to very ugly images and make them not navigable. Some rivers, that once inhabited animals have become silent homes as no animal can live in those rivers. For example, in 2005, due to the explosion, the petrol-chemical plant dumped 100 tons of benzene into the Songhua River, making it not only inaccessible to humans, but also to the environment as it cannot sustain any life or be beneficial for farming or industrial use.

Land Pollution

World Bank (p.15) indicates that much of the weight of growth and development in China is falling on it lands system leading to high ratio of actual to potential deserted lands in the world (World Bank 15). Land pollution has resulted in the numerous soil erosions, making agriculture not available activity in China. Desertification is taking place in a fast pace due to the widespread dryness of lands and destruction of farming lands by acid rains. Reports show that the amount of polluted lands is increasing by approximately two million hectares every year. The grasslands of China are also vanishing at a quick rate. Solid waste, on the other hand, is a major cause of health related problems and is an eyesore to the humans living in those dumps sites. China is loosing land that can be used for meaningful purposes due to poor waste management schemes. The biggest blow goes to the poor landowners, who have no other means to make living, except farming. Due to the very low productivity of the farming lands the poor are turned to beggars, who have to rely from the government feeding.



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Pollution in the USA

Taking the leading position in the world’s industrial and financial sector, the USA has faced detrimental consequences of its success, having advanced China in the pollution amount.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is caused “through smokestacks, tailpipes and agricultural operations” (Lovett & Tear, 2008, p.4). The dangerous elements make a cycle, returning to earth in rain, snow, dry particles, and gases. In the USA, transport means and the industrial sector take the first position in producing pollutions of the environment with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and hydrocarbon emissions. “Emissions from transportation increased by about 50 percent and those from electricity generation and refineries by nearly 60 percent during the same time period” (Industrial pollution and waste, 2005, p.2). According the pollution researches in 2005, the entire emissions of greenhouse gases in North America increased to 8.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (Industrial pollution and waste, 2005, p.2). They led to emergence of acid rains and damage of the ground-level ozone. Moreover, carbon dioxide is one of the reasons of climate change (Lovett & Tear, 2008, p.4).

Nutrient Pollution

The major sources of nutrient pollution are “runoff of fertilizers, animal manure, sewage treatment plant discharges, stormwater runoff, car and power plant emissions, and failing septic tanks” (The facts about nutrient pollution, 2012). According to results of pollution researches in 2010, approximately 20 percent of the U.S. lakes have dangerous rates of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, nearly 15,000 U.S.water sources possess at least one nutrient-related element, taking into account tha fact that the research did not embrace the entire amount of the U.S. waters (The facts about nutrient pollution, 2012). In2006, the vessels dumped nearly 55.6 million tons of carbon dioxide. Moreover, “ocean-going ships contribute about 1.7% of global black carbon emissions every year (Scott & Sinnamon, 2009, p.6).

Oil Pollution

Transportation or storage oil materials may lead to water and soil oil pollution. For instance, significant oil spills, such as the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and the tar sands spill in Michigan in 2010, appeared to be extremely dangerous for the U.S. environment. To illustrate, in 2010, 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon well as a result of accident, having caused ecological disaster (Repanich, 2010). In summer 2010, the pipeline rupture led to the most tremendous ecological disaster in the U.S. history, when above a million gallons of tar sands were dumped into the Kalamazoo River, poisoning people and wildlife (Wallace, 2012).


To sum up, an examination of the ecological sector of two powerful states, China and the USA, traces the necessity of the wise policy in the field of environmental protection. Despite the great world’s financial success, the rapid industrialization in China has caused negative environmental consequences, such as an air, water, and soil pollution. The similar state of affairs can be observed in the USA, where the tendency to the embrace of the leading position in the world’s industrial and financial sector led to disastrous consequences. In fact, the USA has advanced China in the pollution amount, suffering from an additional oil pollution. According to the researches in the ecological field, the situation in both countries is extreme. Therefore, providing their activities, policymakers and businessmen are to realize the fact that environmental policy in both states requires complete understanding potential risks and hazards. The price of a wrong step is extremely high – human health and life.

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