Beijing air pollution reaches crisis levels; can China survive its toxic environment?

chinaChina is the world’s worst industrial polluter, spewing tons of toxins derived from man-made production into the air, soil and water at a steady rate. It has refused to comply with the same standards adopted by other leading nations of the world. And the level of pollutants is starting to catch up with China’s residents, who have to breath it. Recent weeks have seen declarations of “extremely dangerous pollution” in Beijing, with particulate matter reaching more than two dozen times the level considered safe for airborne toxins. Workers and commuters commonly wear face masks to combat the often pungent odors and dust, while many suffer from chronic coughs and irritation in their airways and nasal passages. The smog has reportedly worsened in the last couple of years, obscuring the skyline in major cities and severely limiting visibility. This toxins further compound in the winter with the heavy use of coal for heating and the often stale air. While the World Health Organization (WHO) considers fine particles (PM2.5) safe below 25 micrograms, Beijing monitoring stations have recently recorded levels between 350-500 micrograms and as high as 671 micrograms. In Harbin, the tenth most populous city in China, which is located in the far northeast of the country, PM2.5 levels soared as high as 1,000 micrograms. A Harvard study published in 2013 found that China’s refusal to curb air pollution was contributing to shorter lifespans among its population, particularly in the north, including Beijing. The almost absurd levels of total suspended particulates just from using coal to heat homes has shaved off a calculated 2.5 billion years of life expectancy for the 500 million residents of northern China, depriving individuals of an estimated 5.5 years of life. More
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