President Trump on Envormental Regulations and the EPA


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In China, they have no EPA or a lot of Regulations on Business.

See what Happens with out a EPA and Regulations.

Tainted Harvest: An e360 Special Report/Part I
China’s Dirty Pollution Secret:
The Boom Poisoned Its Soil and Crops

30 June 2014

Wu Di
The farmlands surrounding this tile factory in Dingshu are no longer suitable for growing crops because of heavy metal contamination.

Three decades of rapid economic development in China has left a troubling legacy – widespread soil pollution that has contaminated food crops and jeopardized public health. Although they once labeled soil data a “state secret,” Chinese officials are slowly beginning to acknowledge this grave problem.
The first in a series.


When Zhang Junwei’s uncle died in February 2012, he was only fifty. In the three years that he had endured the cancer that killed him, surgeons had removed both his rectum and his bladder. “Perhaps he was better off dead,” said Zhang, reflecting on his uncle’s ordeal. “It was a release.” Two years after his uncle’s death, Zhang still refuses to name him, afraid that even now, talking about how his uncle lived – and died – could bring trouble down on the family.

Zhang’s uncle lived in Fenshui, in Central China’s Jiangsu Province, a village of some 7,000 people that straddles a network of waterways on the western shore of Lake Tai, China’s third largest freshwater lake. Lake Tai boasts 800 square miles of fresh water, shared between Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, and has been celebrated throughout Chinese history for its abundant fish and beautiful limestone landscape.

But as China’s industrial boom gathered speed through the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century, a new, metalled road connected the once sleepy village of Fenshui to the major highway networks being built across China. Factories began to cluster along the lakeshore, and the village’s traditional single-story whitewashed houses, with their signature black-tiled roofs, were steadily replaced with two- and even three-story houses, as factory wages brought a surge of prosperity to

Tainted Harvest:
An e360 Special Report

This is the first in a series on soil pollution in China. The second article examines risks to the food supply, and the third looks at the complexity of any cleanup. It is a joint project of Yale e360 and Chinadialogue, with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Fenshui. Zhang’s uncle, like many of his neighbors, had found work in one of those factories.

His illness hit the small family hard. His only son was serving in the army when his father fell ill, and the soldier’s wage was too small to cover the medical bills. Zhang’s aunt took a factory job herself to support her sick husband, making the difficult choice to leave him unattended during her working day. The cancer was to consume the family’s savings entirely, all spent in a fruitless effort to save his life. The patient struggled through his final days at home, getting up to see to his own needs until the day he finally collapsed while fetching a drink of water. He died later that day.

Zhang Junwei (whose name has been changed to protect his identity), believes that the cancer that ended his uncle’s life was caused by soil pollution, a subject so sensitive in China that Zhang himself is still afraid to discuss it openly. Zhang has just turned 40 and, like his uncle, has lived all his life in Jiangsu, near the lake. His village of Zhoutie is just five miles from Fenshui and less than 40 miles from the county town of Yixing, in the heart of the Yangtze Delta, today China’s biggest regional economy. For more than 1,000 years, Yixing and its surrounding countryside was an important source of grain for China, celebrated in poetry as far back as 960 A.D. for its benign climate and fertile soil, and famous for the manufacture of a dense, brown pottery that is still highly prized in China as the ideal material for teapots.

But today Yixing and the land around it sit in China’s new industrial landscape. Since the 1990s, nearly 3,000 factories have been built on the once-beautiful shores of the lake. The chemical boom made Yixing one of China’s richest county-level towns, with a GDP that reached $17.06 billion in 2012.

It is also still an agricultural area: The road from Fenshui to Zhoutie runs between flat, regular fields of vegetables, these days more profitable crops than grain for farmers who live close to urban markets. But many local farmers have The government resisted efforts to draw attention to cancer epidemics in China's newly industrialized areas. given up eating the crops they grow. They know that their vegetables are planted in soil polluted with cadmium, lead, and mercury, heavy metals that are dangerous to human health. Zhang confessed that he rarely eats local produce either. “There’s too much soil pollution,” he said.

Soil pollution has received relatively little public attention in China. Despite the fact that it poses as big a threat to health as the more widely covered air and water pollution, data on soil pollution has been so closely guarded that it has been officially categorized as a “state secret.”

Until recently, the Chinese government also resisted media efforts to draw attention to local epidemics of cancer in China’s newly industrial areas. It was not until February 2013 that the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) finally admitted that “cancer villages” existed in China, and released a list that included the area around Lake Tai and the villages of Fenshui and Zhoutie. Some civil society experts have estimated that there are 450 cancer villages in China, and they believe the phenomenon is spreading.

The story of the cancer hotspot of Yixing is characteristic: In the rush to develop that engulfed China from the 1990s, local officials were eager to invite factories and chemical plants into the area, and their already weak environmental controls were often disregarded entirely. “Government officials just care about GDP,” Zhang complained. “They were happy to welcome any polluting firm.” So, for a time, were the villagers who found jobs in the new factories.

The first real signs of the troubles to come were in Lake Tai itself, and were the subject of a long campaign by another resident of Yixing township, the fisherman-turned-environmentalist Wu Lihong. In the early 1990s, Wu grew worried about
Click to Enlarge

Aaron Reiss/Yale Environment 360
Chemical factories have proliferated in this area along Lake Tai in Jiangsu Province since the 1990s.
the deterioration of Lake Tai’s once famously pure waters. He organized a local environmental monitoring group that he called Defenders of Tai Lake, to collect water samples from the lake and its feeder rivers.

For 16 years, Wu campaigned to draw attention to the lake’s declining health, despite harassment from local officials and police, and by appealing to senior government officials, he succeeded in forcing more than 200 factories to close. But his campaign abruptly ended on April 13, 2007, when he was arrested and then sentenced to a three-year prison term on charges of extortion and blackmail. The following month, the Ministry of Environmental Protection named Yixing a “National Model City for Environmental Protection.” Five days later, a toxic algae bloom turned the waters of Lake Tai into foul-smelling green sludge.

That episode, in the high summer of 2007, attracted international attention and was a major embarrassment for the national as well as the provincial government. According to the Lake Tai Basin Authority, more than 30 million people draw their drinking water from the basin’s 53 water sources. A Zhoutie local official admitted to the government newspaper People’s Daily that the algae bloom had caused a “water supply crisis,” and said the lake’s water “looked like soy sauce.” The authorities finally acted.

At the end of 2006, Yixing had been home to 1,188 firms producing chemicals. By October 2013, after six years of “rectification,” 583 had been closed down, merged, or reopened as other types of businesses, as were 104 chemical plants in Zhoutie and 57 in neighboring Taihua township. In late 2013, Yixing started a new round of chemical industry cleanup, with plans to deal with an additional 52 chemical firms over the next two years.

It all came too late for the campaigner Wu Lihong. He has now completed his prison term and his wife and daughter have moved overseas, but Wu himself remains subject to restrictions, including a ban on talking to the media. His The poorest families still eat locally produced food, knowing that it is contaminated. harsh treatment is a reminder to other villagers that environmental activism carries a high cost.

Pollution remains a highly sensitive subject in the district. Most interviewees were too frightened to give their names, worried about how local officials might react. Others complained that official secrecy about pollution meant that they could not discover what dangers Zhoutie’s toxic legacy might pose to their own health and that of their families. Zhang Junwei recalled that, when the pollution was at its worst, even people’s sweat was discolored. “Several of my relatives died from cancer very young,” he said.

Although the local government has now closed the worst of the factories, the pollutants those factories had released in their wastewater or sludge ended up in the soil, and the toxic waste from those polluting years continues to threaten the health of the people of the area and beyond.

Zhang Junwei and villagers like him are well aware that cancer rates in their district have risen, and they suspect that pollution was the cause. They say the number of cancer victims started to increase ten years ago, when local farmers began to fall ill and die. Their suspicions were well-founded: When crops are grown in soil contaminated with cadmium or other heavy metals, the grain absorbs the toxins. But even today, despite this awareness of what pollution can do, local farmers have little choice but to continue to plant. These are families that reaped no direct benefit from industrialization and still have few alternative sources of income. The poorest still eat locally produced food, knowing it is contaminated.

Establishing a clear connection, however, between pollution and cancer is scientifically challenging. At Hohai University, in Jiangsu Province,
View Gallery

Wu Di
Chemical plants in Zhoutie have polluted waterways and contaminated locally produced rice and wheat with cadmium.
Chen Ajiang, a sociologist who heads the university’s Institute of the Environment and Sociology, admitted that the link between pollution and cancer is extremely complex, and it is difficult to pin down cause and effect.

In 2007, Professor Chen won a government grant to study the interaction of human and water environments in the basins of Lake Tai and the Huai River. For five years, he and his four researchers carried out field studies in the provinces of Henan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, and Guangdong, looking for evidence of the health impacts of water pollution. Professor Chen believed that pollution-related illness was damaging economic development, keeping villagers in poverty, or driving them away from their native villages altogether. Although he admits that the medical world has not yet identified an undisputed link between pollution and cancer in the villages he studied, his team established beyond doubt that cancer villages exist and that the lives of those who live in them are severely impacted.

The pollution that chemical factories released in gas and sludge, and in the wastewater they discharged into Lake Tai and other local waterways, has now accumulated in the surrounding soil, but the government has been reluctant to acknowledge the scale of the problem. In April 2013, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development awarded Zhoutie a “Habitat Environment Prize,” an award, like the accolade given to Yixing, that seems out of tune with the real state of Zhoutie’s environment.

In April 2013, the Jiangsu Geological Survey published part of a report that showed that heavy metal pollution in the Wuxi, Suzhou, and Changzhou areas Rice from Dingshu has long been in breach of safety limits on the amount of cadmium it contains. has increased continuously since 2004, with once-isolated spots of pollution from cadmium and mercury now expanding and merging to form larger, continuous areas. The report, New technologies for monitoring and preventing heavy metal pollution resulting from urbanization, revealed that between 2005 and 2011 increasing levels of cadmium were found at 37.5 percent of the sites sampled, with average increases of 0.03 milligrams (mg) of cadmium per kilogram (kg) of soil. At its highest, the annual average increase was 0.2 mg.

Continuous monitoring revealed an escalating pattern of pollution. In one unspecified area, researchers reported, cadmium levels higher than 0.4 mg per kilogram of soil were found only in relatively isolated patches in the land surrounding industrial development. But by 2012, large stretches of nearby farmland were polluted to the same levels, and rice and wheat produced in the area were contaminated.

It also described one case — later identified as the township of Dingshu, 18 miles to the southwest of Zhoutie — where, due to a cluster of township enterprises that were dumping their waste, cadmium levels in the river silt had reached 1,500 mg per kg, and rice produced on nearby land was contaminated with
View Gallery

Wu Di
Villagers in Zhoutie, where these farmlands surround a chemical plant, believe pollution is the cause of rising cancer rates there.
cadmium to levels of more than 0.5 mg per kg. China’s food safety standards rule that rice can contain no more than 0.2 mg per kg of cadmium, and the international limit is 0.4 mg per kg. Rice from Dingshu has long been in breach of those limits.

Dingshu is the center of Yixing’s ceramics industry, home to many glazed tile factories, teapot factories, and clay workshops. Yixing’s stoneware is an important source of revenue, but the factories have also badly damaged the local environment and contribute to the area’s soil pollution. Yixing launched a crackdown on ceramic factories in early 2011, but by June 2013 only 300 had been fully shut down.

The area’s problems illustrate the high price China is paying for 30 years of rapid economic development and the risks China’s increasingly serious soil pollution poses to its food. Official estimates say that China produces 12 million tons of heavy-metal-contaminated grain a year, with an economic cost of more than $3.2 billion.

China’s official approach to soil pollution has been characterized by secrecy and obfuscation. Even now, a picture of the scale and severity of the problem must be pieced together from disparate reports.

In 2010, for instance, a report on soil protection policy from the international expert body, the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), warned that overall trends in China’s soil pollution gave no cause for optimism. Quoting China’s official 1997 Report on the State of the Environment in China, it characterized the pollution of China's arable land as “rather severe,” with pollution affecting an estimated 10 million hectares of land. By the year 2000, according to that year’s report on the state of the environment, 36,000 of the 300,000 hectares of basic farmland monitored for harmful heavy metals were found to be more than 12 percent above the standard.

CCICED’s researchers were no more optimistic about China’s system of supervision and management of soil, finding that investment in soil pollution prevention and control was too low. They stressed that soil pollution reduces the quality of crops and recommended legislation to protect the soil and to control pollution, as well as improvement in China’s environmental soil standards.

There are now signs that gravity of the soil pollution problem is belatedly forcing the Chinese government to begin to deal with a problem that has accumulated over many decades, and to reconsider its policy of pursuing economic growth at A recent survey reported that 19 percent of China’s farmland was contaminated. the expense of the environment. In July 2007, the Ministry of Land and the National Bureau of Statistics launched a nationwide soil survey. It was completed in 2009, but partial results were not published until December 2013. In April 2014, the government released partial results of a second soil pollution survey, conducted from April 2005 to December 2013, and covering 243 square miles of farmland. The survey reported that about 16.1 percent of China's soil and about 19.4 percent of farmland were contaminated.

China has 135 million hectares (334 million acres) of arable land in total, but the amount of available high-quality arable land has been dropping due to advancing urbanization and pollution. According to the recently released data, the government classifies more than 3 million hectares of arable land as moderately polluted. How much of that is contaminated with heavy metals is still not clear, though in 2011, Wang Bentai, then chief engineer of the State Environmental Protection Agency (now the Ministry of Environmental Protection) put lead, zinc, and other heavy metal pollution at 10 percent of China’s arable land. By official estimates, pollution cuts China’s harvests by 10 billion kg every year.

Rising public concern about the impacts of pollution have begun to force a change in government attitudes, but changes at the top can take some time to percolate down to lower levels of government. In November 2013, delegates to
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Wu Di
The factories that produce these glazed pots in Dingshu have polluted nearby lands with toxins.
the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee – an important party meeting — adopted a key strategy document that set out the government’s priorities for the immediate future.

The document, prosaically entitled Decision on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, promised that environmental protection would be given more importance in the performance evaluation of local and national officials, and that local officials would be considered directly responsible for pollution. Economic growth would no longer guarantee promotion for local officials. The government also promises to put in place the legislation and powers to allow polluters to be heavily punished, a promise that began to take shape in the new environmental protection law, approved in April 2014, which removed the caps that had kept fines for polluters low.

However, Zhuang Guotai, the head of the MEP’s Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation, has said that cleaning up soil pollution is a difficult and lengthy process that will require huge investment. In some cases, he explained, the pollution the ministry had identified in soil samples could be traced back decades: Pollution from the pesticide benzene hexachloride, for instance, a substance banned in the 1980s, was still in evidence.

Mr. Zhuang promised that an action plan to deal with soil pollution will pull together both central and local government and businesses, using market mechanisms to promote soil restoration, with rewards systems in place to encourage public participation. A new law on soil pollution is also promised. But soil remediation is expensive and complex, and there are no easy answers to a pollution nightmare that has brought early death to the afflicted villages, reduced harvests, and rendered much of China’s homegrown food toxic.

This article is the first in a three-part series on soil pollution in China. It is a joint project between Yale Environment 360 and Chinadialogue, with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. A Chinese language version of this article is available at Chinadialogue.

Other articles in this series:

Part II
In China's Heartland, A Toxic Trail Leads from Factories to Fields to Food

Part III
The Soil Pollution Crisis in China: A Cleanup Presents Daunting Challenge


He Guangwei
is a staff writer and investigative reporter with The Times Weekly, a national Chinese newspaper based in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. He was one of the winners of Chinadialogue-Guardian Environmental Press Awards in 2012. Since 2006, He has worked for various media outlets in mainland China and Hong Kong covering current affairs. Now he focuses on in-depth investigative reporting. He is also an active user of weibo, China's Twitter.
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China's environmental protection ministry published a report in November 2010 which showed that about a third of 113 cities surveyed failed to meet national air standards last year. According to the World Bank 16 of the world's 20 cities with the worst air are in China. According to Chinese government sources, about a fifth of urban Chinese breath heavily polluted air. Many places smell like high-sulfur coal and leaded gasoline. Only a third of the 340 Chinese cities that are monitored meet China's own pollution standards.

China's smog-filled cities are ringed with heavy industry, metal smelters, and coal-fired power plants, all critical to keeping the fast-growing economy going even as they spew tons of carbon, metals, gases, and soot into the air. The air pollution and smog in Beijing and Shanghai are sometimes so bad that the airports are shut down because of poor visibility. The air quality of Beijing is 16 times worse than New York City. Sometimes you can't even see building a few blocks away and blue sky is a rare sight. In Shanghai sometimes you can't see the street from the 5th floor window. Fresh air tours to the countryside are very popular.

Only 1 percent of the China's 560 million city dwellers breath air considered safe by European Union standards according to a World Bank study. Air pollution is particularly bad in the rust belt areas of northeastern China. A study done by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the amount of airborne suspended particulates in northern China are almost 20 times what WHO considers a safe level.

Coal is the number once source of air pollution in China. China gets 80 percent of electricity and 70 percent its total energy from coal, much of it polluting high-sulphur coal. Around six million tons of coal is burned everyday to power factories, heat homes and cook meals. Expanding car ownership, heavy traffic and low-grade gasoline have made cars a leading contributor to the air pollution problem in Chinese cities.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center before the 2008 Olympics found that 74 percent of the Chinese interviewed said they were concerned about air pollution. Even in remote areas air pollution levels can be alarmingly high. On the nice new highway between Urumqi and Turpan in Xinjiang it's sometimes difficult to make out the wonderful scenery because brownish smoke produced by natural gas refineries and coal plants.

Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: “In February 2013 Deutsche Bank released an analysts’ note saying that China's current economic policies would result in an enormous surge in coal consumption and automobile sales over the next decade. “China's air pollution will become a lot worse from the already unbearable level," the analysts said, calling for drastic policy changes and “a strong government will to overcome the opposition from interest groups." The report estimated that the number of passenger cars in China was on track to hit 400 million by 2030, up from 90 million now. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, March 21, 2013]

Websites and Resources

BBC air pollution Good Websites and Sources: Photo Essay on Air Pollution ; World Resources Report ; Blog on Pollution in Beijing ; Book: The River Runs Black by Elizabeth C. Economy (Cornell, 2004) is one of the best recently-written books on China's environmental problems. In his book China on the Edge: the Crisis of Ecology and Development in China, the Chinese intellectual He Bochun argues that in many ways China's environmental problems have already reached catastrophic levels.

On the Environment: China Environmental News Blog ; China.Org (Chinese Government Environmental News ; New York Times Multimedia Series on Pollution in China ; China's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) ; EIN News Service's China Environment News Wikipedia article on Environment of China ; Wikipedia ; China Environmental Protection Foundation (a Chinese Government Organization) ;Global Environmental Institute (a Chinese non-profit NGO) ; Beijing Energy Network (a Chinese grassroots environmental group) ; Greenpeace China ; China Digital Times Collection of Articles ; Brief History of Chinese Environment ; Article on Wetlands Degradation ; Useful But Dated Source List on te Environment and China ; China Environmental Forum at the Wilson Center ; International Fund for China's Environment ; China Watch ; China Environmental law Blog ; World Resources Institute ; China Environmental Industry Network


Air Pollution Linked to 1.2 Million Premature Deaths in China

Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, “Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total, according to a new summary of data from a scientific study on leading causes of death worldwide. Figured another way, the researchers said, China's toll from pollution was the loss of 25 million healthy years of life from the population. The data on which the analysis is based was first presented in the ambitious 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, which was published in December in The Lancet, a British medical journal."Source: Edward Wong. New York Times, April 1, 2013]

“What the researchers called “ambient particulate matter pollution” was the fourth-leading risk factor for deaths in China in 2010, behind dietary risks, high blood pressure and smoking. Air pollution ranked seventh on the worldwide list of risk factors, contributing to 3.2 million deaths in 2010. By comparison with China, India, which also has densely populated cities grappling with similar levels of pollution, had 620,000 premature deaths in 2010 because of outdoor air pollution, the study found. That was deemed to be the sixth most common killer in South Asia. The study was led by an institute at the University of Washington and several partner universities and institutions, including the World Health Organization. ><

“Calculations of premature deaths because of outdoor air pollution are politically threatening in the eyes of some Chinese officials. According to news reports, Chinese officials cut out sections of a 2007 report called “Cost of Pollution in China” that discussed premature deaths. The report's authors had concluded that 350,000 to 400,000 people die prematurely in China each year because of outdoor air pollution. The study was done by the World Bank in cooperation with the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration, the precursor to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. ><

Some Chinese officials have sought to quash reports that link premature deaths to pollution. According to news reports, Chinese officials excised parts of a 2007 report called “Cost of Pollution in China” that had concluded that 350,000 to 400,000 people die prematurely in China each year because of outdoor air pollution. The study was done by the World Bank with the help of the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration, the precursor to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. <>

Kinds of Air Pollution in China

Air pollutants include sulfates, ozone, black carbon, flu-laced desert dust and mercury. Black carbon, the soot produced by cars, stoves, factories, and crop burning and a major component of Chinese haze. The small diameter of the carbon particles means they can penetrate deep inside the lungs, providing absorption sites for secondary toxins that would otherwise be cleared. This compounds the danger, making black carbon an especially potent risk factor for lung disease and premature death.

Air pollution includes particles of soot, organic hazardous material, heavy metals, acid aerosols and dust. The smaller particles are more dangerous because they are more easily inhaled. Judged as the most dangerous for health, suspended particulates are caused mainly by coal and car exhaust. In the cities it is also caused by construction. In the spring it is caused by dust from the sand and dust storms in the Gobi.

from the Economist Particulate matter, which includes dust, soot aerosol particles less than 10 microns in size is a major source of air pollution. Particulate levels are measured in micrograms be cubic meter of air. In United States levels about 50 micrograms are considered unsafe. In Europe the levels are around 40 micrograms. In Beijing that average level is 141.

China is the world's leading source of sulfur dioxide. Levels of the pollutant in the air are comparable to Japan in the 1970s when air pollution was a major problem there. Emissions of sulfur dioxide from coal and fuel oil can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as well as acid rain. Sulfur dioxide emissions alone are though to cause damage equal to 12 percent of China's GNP.

China's emissions of nitrogen oxide---the main cause of urban smog---have increased 3.8 percent a year for 25 years. Unless things are dramatically changed nitrogen oxide emissions in China will double by 2020. Nitrogen oxide is released by power plants, heavy industry and cars.

Nitrogen dioxide is not a serious problem. Levels of the pollutant in China are comparable to those in Japan. Even so levels in Beijing rose 50 percent between 1996 and 2006.

There are also problems with ozone and paticulates measuring more than 2.5 microns. Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides combine with hydrocarbons emitted by vehicles and refineries. It affects photosynthesis. High ozone levels recorded in the lower Yangtze basin are thought to be linked o crops yields that are 25 percent lower than those in unpolluted areas.

PM 2.5 Fine Particulate Pollution and China

Sharon Lafraniere wrote in the New York Times: “The most pernicious measure of urban air pollution---particulates 2.5 microns in diameter or less, or PM 2.5---are among the most hazardous because they easily penetrate lungs and enter the bloodstream. Caused by dust or emissions from vehicles, coal combustion, factories and construction sites, the particles increases the risk of cardiovascular ailments, respiratory disease and lung cancer if people are chronically exposed to them. Car and truck exhaust is a major source of fine particulate pollution, a particular problem in Beijing, where the number of registered cars has skyrocketed from to 5 million in 2011 from 3.5 million in 2008.

The Chinese government has monitored exposure levels in 20 cities and 14 other sites, reportedly for as long as five years, but has kept the data secret. In the summer of 2010 it sought to silence the American Embassy in Beijing as well, arguing that American officials had insulted the Chinese government by posting readings from the PM 2.5 monitor could lead to “social consequences” in China and asked the embassy to restrict access to it. The embassy refused, and Chinese citizens now translate and disseminate the readings widely.

While China has made gains on some other airborne toxins, the PM 2.5 data is far from reassuring in a country that annually has hundreds of thousands of premature deaths related to air pollution. In an unreleased December report relying on government data, the World Bank said average annual PM 2.5 concentrations in northern Chinese cities exceeded American limits by five to six times as much, and two to four times as much in southern Chinese cities. Nine of 13 major cities failed more than half the time to meet even the initial annual mean target for developing countries set by the World Health Organization. Environmental advocates here expect China to adopt that target as its PM 2.5 standard.

Wang Yuesi, the chief air-pollution scientist at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, estimated this month that Beijing needed at least 20 years to reach that goal. The embassy's monitor showed that fine particulate concentrations over the past two years averaged nearly three times that level , and 10 times the World Health Organization's guideline, said Steven Q. Andrews, an environmental consultant based in Beijing.

In fact, Mr. Wang told Outlook Weekly , a magazine owned by China's official news agency, Xinhua, that Beijing's PM 2.5 concentrations have been increasing by 3 to 4 percent annually since 1998. He said the finer particulates absorbed more light, explaining why Beijing so often is enveloped in a haze thick enough to obscure even nearby buildings. Air pollution in the city and in nearby Tianjin is so severe that “something must be done to control it," he wrote on his blog .

Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told China Daily month that without intervention, PM 2.5 particulates would replace smoking as China's top cause of lung cancer. Beijing health experts told the newspaper that while smoking rates were flat, the city's lung-cancer rate had risen 60 percent in the past decade, probably as a result of air pollution.

PM 2.5 particles are about 1/30th the width of a human hair, and so fine that they can lodge deeply in human lungs. "The smaller the particle, the more hazardous it is for public health," Shi Yuankai, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Cancer Hospital, told the China Daily. Protective measures like wearing face masks barely help because the particles are too small," he said.

“Beijing officials have said that vehicle emissions account for 22 percent of the main deadly particulate matter in the air, known as PM 2.5, and another 40 percent is from coal-fired factories in Beijing and nearby provinces. In February, the Ministry of Environmental Protection issued stricter factory emissions standards for six coal-burning industries. First on the list is the power industry, which accounts for about half the coal consumption in China."Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, March 21, 2013]

Coal, Acid Rain and Air Pollution in China

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are the main pollutants that cause acid rain. The former is cause when sulphur emitted from coal-fired power stations and commercial installations mixes with oxygen. The latter is produced when nitrogen emitted from vehicles and power stations and other sources combines with oxygen. Acid rain has at least one positive point. It reduces the amount of methane.

See Coal, Energy, Educationm Health...

Vaclav Smil, a Canadian expert on the Chinese environment from the University of Manitoba, told the New York Times, the Chinese “have this coal; they have to use it...Much of the coal is now coming from these very small coal mines, but there is no sorting, no cleaning or washing and this kind of coal generates a tremendous amount of pollution."

China is the world's top producer of airborne sulfur dioxide and particulate matter from coal combustion. Chinese factories and power plants spewed out 25.5 million tons of sulphur dioxide, the chemical that causes acid ran, in 2005, up 27 percent from 2000. By contrast the United States produced about 11 million tons. Levels of sulphur dioxide emissions in China are double what are regarded safe. Coal-burring power stations and coking plants are the main sulfur dioxide producers.

One survey found that a third of mainland China is regularly soaked in acid rain and half of the cities and counties surveyed receive at least some acid rain. In some places every rainy day is an acid rain day and limestone buildings are dissolving in the acid air. The Guangdong-Guangxi-Guizhou-Sichuan basin south of the Yangtze is the largest single area in the world affected by acid rain pollution. A study in the early 2000s found that one third of crops in the Chongqing area had been damaged by acid rain. China sends some its acid rain abroad. See Below


Coal plant in Linfen

Coal and the Environment

The production of coal-fired plants has slowed to some degree. They are no longer being produced at the rate of one a week and now add 80 gigawatts of power a year, down from 100 gigawatts a few years earlier.

It is estimated that the use of cheap coal cost China $248 billion, the equivalent of 7.1 percent of GDP, in 2007 through environmental damage, strains on the health care system and manipulation of commodity prices. The figure was arrived at by the Energy Foundation and the WWF by taking into consideration things like lost income from those sickened by coal pollution.

Coal has been tied to a number of health problems. In towns like Gaojiagao in Shanxi it has been linked with a high number of birth defects such neural tube defects, additional fingers and toes, cleft pallets and congenital heart disease and mental retardation.

Coal, Underground Coal Fires and Tire Fires in China

Many places still burn large amounts of coal for heating. Coal produces thick, smoggy smoke. High sulphur coal is particularly nasty. It produces a rotten egg smell .

Underground coal fires are consuming 20 to 30 million tons of coal a year, pumping tons of ash, carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and sulfur compounds into the atmosphere. Some of the fires have been burning for centuries. By one count there are 56 underground coals fire currently burning in China. Coal fires produce huge amounts of harmful carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. The fires produce as much carbon monoxide each year as all the cars in the United States.

A coal fire The underground coal fires are revealed by fumes and smoke that pour from cracks in the earth. The Wude coal field in Inner Mongolia, one of China's largest coal fields, is the home of China's largest coal fire and some argue one of the world's worst environmental disasters. Sixteen of China's coal fires burn here, spewing out acrid clouds of sulfur dioxide.

The fires at the Wude field are at a depth of between 110 to 220 feet. They advance about 100 feet a year. An official in charge of putting the fires at Wude told Smithsonian magazine: “An underground coal fire is like a dragon. We can sense the dragon's tail, that is, the area already burned. But satellite images show that the hottest, densest parts are far below the surface, or the dragon's head. We can predict the path, and prepare to chop off its head."

Workers try to extinguish the fires by starving them of oxygen by burying them under a 3-foot-layer of dirt. Pouring water on them produces dangerous methane gas, so workers pour a water-clay slurry into cracks instead of water if a dousing strategy is employed. Even when the fires are extinguished the ground can take years to cool down.

Only 10 percent of China's coal underground fires are being fought. They pose little immediate threat other than polluting the air in fairly remote places and cutting off access to some coal supplies. There have been some successes. In 2003, a centuries-old fire was extinguished near Urumqi after a four year battle.

In 2009, a number of coal fires, one of which had been burning for 60 years, were put out in Xinjiang. The fires, which has been caused illegal mining and spontaneous combustion, had spread to more than 900,000 square meters and consumed 10 million tons of coal a year. The fires were put out through a coordinated plan of drilling, water injection and using earth to cut off oxygen.

In Wuhan in Hubei Province old tires and asphalt are used as fuel to fire pottery kilns, creating some nasty pollution in the process.

Cement Plants and Pollution in China

Cement plants are among the biggest air pollution producers in China. They produce lots of dust in various sizes. They also need a lot of energy---heat of more than 2,600 degrees F from 400 pounds of coal for each ton of cement---to convert the limestone and other materials into the intermediate form of cement called “clinker." Production generates huge amounts of heat that is released into the air.

To reduce coal transportation costs cement plants are often built in places that have a supply of coal nearby. Mining, coal processing and cement making produce high levels of pollution. Areas with cement plants can often be determined from many kilometers away by the grayish color of the air and the layers of dust on trees and the road.

Advanced cement plants recycle heat normally released into the air and use it to run turbines that generate electric power. The power then can be used to run the plants. These plants require 60 percent less energy, enough to cover the millions of dollars needed to build the advance plant, which take about in four years to construct. The technology for these system is supplied by the Chinese firm Dalian East Energy Development, which exports the technoloy to countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Pakistan and plans to use similar technology on steel plants in the future.

Health Problems and Air Pollution in China


Air pollution causes premature births, low-birth weight babies, and depresses lungs functioning in otherwise healthy people. It has also been blamed for China's rising rates of cancer. Lung cancer is now the leading cause of death in China. In the last five years the number of deaths from the disease has risen 18.5 percent to 34 per 100,000 people. Air pollution is also linked with a variety of respiratory aliments. Around some factories the asthma rate is 5 percent. It is estimated that 26 percent of all deaths in China are caused by respiratory illnesses (compared with 2 or 3 percent in the U.S.). Many people in Beijing and Shanghai get hacking coughs. In rural areas, respiratory disease is the number one killer. It is impossible to say how many are caused by air pollution though and how many are caused by smoking or some other cause.

China has the world highest number of deaths attributed to air pollution. The World Health Organization estimated in 2007 that 656,000 Chinese died prematurely each year from ailments caused by indoor and outdoor air pollution (that's like losing everybody in Wyoming every year). The World Bank placed deaths related to outdoor pollution at 350,000 to 400,000, but excised those figures from a 2007 report under government pressure.

According to Chinese government statistics 300,000 die each year from ambient air pollution, mostly from heart disease and lung cancer. An additional 110,000 die from illnesses related to indoor pollution from poorly ventilated wood and coal stoves and toxic fumes from shoddy construction material. The air pollution death figure is expect to rise to 380,000 in 2010 and 550,000 in 2020. The Chinese government has calculated that if the air quality in 210 medium and large cities were to be improved from “polluted” to “good” levels 178,000 lives could be saved.

International schools here are doming their athletic fields because pollution so often requires that students stay indoors. Washington Post writer John Pomfret was based in Beijing for many years. When his family moved to Los Angeles afterwards his son's asthma attacks and chronic chest infections stopped. When asked why he moved to Los Angeles he jokingly said “for the air."

It has been reasoned that all forms of air pollution are 10 times more damaging to health than all forms of water pollution. According to the World Bank and WHO between 300,000 and 350,000 people die from outdoor air pollution and about 300,000 die from inside air pollution. Some think the true figure is much higher. Some estimate that indoor air pollution kills more than 700,000 people a year. The fine particles produced by coal-fired stoves exacerbates respiratory problems and is especially damaging to children's lungs functions.

In December 2011 Kyodo reported: Air pollution is likely a main culprit for the almost 60 percent growth in lung cancer rates in Beijing during the past decade, China's state media reported Tuesday. "Increasing air pollution might be largely blamed" for the big rise, even though the smoking rate during the period has not seen an apparent increase, Zhi Xiuyi, the head of Capital Medical University's lung cancer center, told the China Daily. The China Daily cited figures released by the Beijing Institute for Cancer Research as showing that between 2000 and 2009, instances of lung cancer in the capital rose 56 percent. Health experts warn the absorption of small particles in people's lungs poses a long-lasting health danger."Source: Kyodo, December 6, 2011]


Coal-Related Air Pollution Linked to Lung Cancer

Nonsmoking women in an area of China's Yunnan province die of lung cancer at a rate 20 times that of their counterparts in other regions of the country---and higher than anywhere else in the world. In a January 2010 article in the journal Environmental Science & Technology group of scientists said they had come up with a possible explanation why: the burning of coal formed during volcanic eruptions hundreds of millions of years ago. [Source: Sindya N. Bhanoo, New York Times, January 11, 2010]

Coal in Yunnan's Xuanwei County, where the problem exists, contains high concentrations of silica, a suspected carcinogen. There is more silica in this coal than in 99.9 percent of all the samples we analyzed, said an author of the study, Robert B. Finkelman, a professor of geology at the University of Texas at Dallas. [Ibid]

Like others in rural China, the families of Xuanwei County use coal for heat and for cooking. As the coal burns, particles of silica are released with the vapor and inhaled. Women, who do the cooking, face the greatest exposure. [Ibid]

Dr. Finkelman and his colleagues found that quartz, of which silica is the primary component, made up 13.5 percent of the coal samples taken from Xuanwei County. In normal coal samples, quartz and other minerals are found only in trace amounts. The grains of quartz were so small they were only visible through an electron microscope, Dr. Finkelman said. Strikingly, the coal found in neighboring villages did not contain quartz at the same high levels or with such fine grain. [Ibid]

When the volcanic eruptions occurred 250 million years ago, they set off a mass extinction and released acid gases, leading to a variety of changes in the earth's environment, including acid rain. Dr. Finkelman speculated that the rain might have dissolved surface rocks composed of silica, which then might have worked its way into developing formations of coal. [Ibid]

The high cancer rates in Xuanwei have attracted the attention of scientists for decades. Dr. Qing Lan, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Md., is completing two studies involving hundreds of women and families there. While her team is confident that coal burning is causing the high rates of cancer, they are not certain it is due to silica. [Ibid]

China Study Blames Indoor Burning for Lung Ailment

In February 2009, Reuters reported: “A study of more than 20,000 people in China has shown that exposure to burning solid fuel indoors for heat and cooking may cause the lung ailment known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The finding, published in the European Respiratory Journal, is significant because COPD has long been associated with smoking and very little research has been done to find out why non-smokers also suffer from the disease. COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Emphysema is the loss of elasticity of lung tissues, resulting in the collapse of small airways which gives rise to shortness of breath and hyperventilation. [Source: Reuters, February 18, 2009 |:|]

“The study covered 20,245 people over 40 years of age in seven Chinese cities and provinces who were interviewed about their smoking habits, family health history and exposure to smoke from solid fuels, such as wood, coal, grass and dung. Among the participants, 12,471 were non-smokers and 5.2 percent of them were diagnosed as suffering from COPD, wrote the researchers, led by Pixin Ran at the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease in China's southern Guangzhou city. |:|

“After adjusting for other possible causes, including passive smoking, the Chinese researchers found that exposure to various types of smoke in the home, such as that produced by burning coal and biomass, was the leading cause of COPD in non-smokers. Around 73 percent had been exposed for at least a year to burning fuel indoors for the purpose of heating or cooking. In four out of 10 cases, kitchen ventilation was poor and both men and women were harmed, they added. |:|

“Nearly four-fifths of the non-smokers, or 78 percent, were also found to have lived with tobacco fumes. It is well known that children of smoking parents are more likely to suffer from respiratory disease as adults and the researchers said the problem will be more acute in China, where nearly 40 percent of adults smoke. "Our results can probably be applied to other developing countries, such as India and Nepal, which have a similar indoor pollution problem", wrote the researchers. They hoped a substantial number of COPD cases could be avoided through health education, better ventilation in kitchens and getting people to quit smoking. |:|

Unreliability of Chinese Pollution Data

Whether government statistics are reliable is another matter, Sharon Lafraniere wrote in the New York Times. While some argue that the release of ever more detailed data makes fudging ever harder, Mr. Andrews, the environmental researcher, contends that the government systematically manipulated data and standards to create more “blue sky” days. Although attention focuses on Beijing, at least 16 other cities are more polluted, the World Bank says. Their efforts to clean up the air are partly offset by rising populations, an avalanche of vehicles and never-ending construction.

Some experts contend that the government shies away from epidemiological studies on pollution's health impact. “They are really unwilling to match it to the health data because that would be much more alarming," said one specialist who spoke anonymously for fear of angering Chinese officials. “They want to get the counts down first."

Kyodo reported: Many Beijing residents worry about discrepancies between China's official air quality readings and air testing conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which conducts its own measurements. While China's national environmental monitoring center reported that Beijing's air was slightly polluted Monday, the U.S. Embassy, which measures smaller particulates, or those less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, rated it as "hazardous.' [Source: Kyodo, December 6, 2011]

China's pollution monitors have been struggling to maintain credibility since a clear run of blue-sky days during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games when factories were forced to temporarily close and car use was severely restricted. "The government has created a story that air pollution has improved, but actually it has not," Steven Andrews, a Beijing-based environmental consultant, told Kyodo News. "China actually has stringent environmental regulations. But if they are not being followed in the capital, you can just imagine how bad it must be in other areas," he said.

The Beijing government has even criticized health experts for taking health precautions to deal with the air pollution. When an American doctor at Beijing United Family Hospital recommended this month on his blog that people wear face masks, the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times newspaper ran an article rebuking him. The newspaper quoted an anonymous doctor at Peking University People's Hospital as saying, "The suggestion to wear air masks will make trouble out of nothing, as we've had polluted air for a long time, and we shouldn't be living with an American standard." [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2011]

Image Sources: 1) University of Washington; 2) Impact Lab; 3,5 ) Natalie Behring, Bloomberg, Environmental News." 4) University of Utah; 6) Environmental News; 7) David Wolman Blogspot; 8) NASA; 9) Julie Chao ; You Tube

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2014

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60% of China’s underground water 'not fit for human contact' - Beijing
Published time: 5 Jun, 2015 09:21Edited time: 6 Jun, 2015 07:53
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The ministry said in a statement that water quality is getting worse, and the ministry classified 61.5 percent of underground water at nearly 5,000 monitoring sites as “relatively poor”or“very poor.”In 2013, the figure stood at 59.6 percent.

The fact that the water is unfit for human contact means that it can only be used for industrial purposes or irrigation.
The water supplies are classified into six grades, with only 3.4 percent of 968 monitoring sites of surface water meeting the highest “Grade I” standard.

A total of 63.1 percent was reported to be suitable for human use, rated “Grade III” or above.

China is currently carrying out a “war on pollution” campaign, to deal with environmental issues.

In particular, in April, the government in Beijing pledged to increase the percentage of good quality water sources up to 70 percent in seven main river basins, and to more than 93 percent in urban drinking supplies, by 2020.

Also, a prohibition on water-polluting plants in industries – such as oil refining and paper production – is set to come into effect by the end of 2016.

READ MORE: River in China mysteriously turns red overnight

Air pollution also remains one of the most serious issues in China, the ministry said in its statement.

Just 16 of the 161 major Chinese cities satisfied the national standard for clean air in 2014, statistics demonstrated, local news agencies reported.

The other 145 cities – over 90 percent all in all – failed to meet the requirements.

Also, acid rain was detected in about 30 percent out of 470 cities.

READ MORE: Smog-beater: First hydrogen powered tram developed in China

Deputy Environment Minister Zhai Qing admitted that the fight was far from over. The problem is so challenging that"reducing pollution by a few percentage points is not enough,"he said. Also, he said that only several key pollutants, such as chemical oxygen demand, are now monitored.

"We are fighting a protracted, uphill battle," Environment Minister Chen Jining said, echoing Zhai’s comments.
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9 charts that show the level of pollution in China


Yubin Du

government work report, calling pollution a “blight on people’s quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts.”

To fully understand the work ahead of the government, here are nine charts that highlight the level of pollution in China using government statistics:

China’s Air Pollution Report published in February 2015 by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection found that only 8 of the 74 major Chinese cities that are subject to air quality monitoring met the national standard for clean air in 2014. Six of those eight cities were located on the eastern part of the country: Haikou, Zhoushan, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Huizhou and Fuzhou. The other two were Lhasa and Kunming, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.


The metropolitan area around Beijing and Tianjin were the most seriously polluted, with eight of the 13 cities in the area on the list of the country’s 10 smoggiest cities. There were only 172 days that qualified to meet the air standard in 2014, a decrease of about 1 percent compared to last year.

In Beijing, the levels of PM2.5 (Fine Particulate Matter), a key indicator of air pollution, were stuck at hazardous levels for weeks in early 2014 and peaked at 35 times the World Health Organization recommended limit. According to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center’s report, a total of 51.8 percent of days in 2013 were unhealthy or worse.

China began to include an index of PM2.5 and ozone in a new air quality standard at the beginning of 2013 and chose 74 pilot cities to meet the new standard. In 2013, only three met the standard.

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said that China’s air pollution type has multiple sources of pollution, caused by several factors including coal burning, vehicle emissions, and secondary pollution.


A river in Wangli town in east China’s Zhejiang province is known as “red river” due to the high level of pollution from red dye in this October 31, 2011. (Photo by CFP)

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has found that among 4,778 testing sites in 203 cities, 44 percent had “somewhat poor” underground water quality. The groundwater in another 15.7 percent tested as “very poor”, according to the 2013 China Environment Report.

Water quality improved year-on-year at 647 sites, and got worse at 754 sites, the ministry said.

According to China’s underground water standards, water of “somewhat poor” quality can only be used for drinking after proper treatment. Water that’s of “very poor” quality cannot be used as source of drinking water.

Of the main river basins monitored, 9 percent are essentially useless at Grade V+ — which means they are not usable for agriculture or industry. (See grade explanations below) An additional 28.3 percent of water in China is polluted at Grade IV+ — which means it is not recommended for swimming.

China’s river pollution grading system
Grade:I National nature reserve
Grade:II Protection area for centralized drinking water supply, natural habitat for rare species of fish, and spawning grounds for fish and shrimp
Grade:III Protection for centralized drinking water supply, sanctuaries for common species of fish, and swimming zones for people
Grade:IV Bodies of water for general industrial use and recreational water in which there is no direct human contact
Grade:V Bodies of water used for agriculture and general landscape needs
Highly Polluted
Grade:V+ Essentially useless


Polluted soil in China. (Photo/CFP)

Almost a fifth of China’s soil is contaminated, according to the first-ever official results of a nationwide soil pollution survey, released last March by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land and Resources.

The survey, conducted between 2005-2013, found that 16.1 percent of China’s soil and 19.4 percent of its arable land showed contamination. The report named cadmium, nickel, and arsenic, as top pollutants.

Source: Xinhua, Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Joe cool

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Jan 8, 2015
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America 2% of the world's pollution , our standards are more stringent than anyone in the world and China's at 15 -20% pollution and our government wants tighter standards for America when you can actually put your nose in a new Mustang Muffler and gas it and smell nothing .


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Mike Raimer
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America 2% of the world's pollution , our standards are more stringent than anyone in the world and China's at 15 -20% pollution and our government wants tighter standards for America when you can actually put your nose in a new Mustang Muffler and gas it and smell nothing .
That is probably why the sticker cost of a new mustang is out of reach for most people in the states. A stripped down version starts at 25000. That doesn't include any taxes or fees. There is a balance that can be had between regulation and business.