Asthma, its No Problem, You Will Grow out Of It!
That was fifty years ago!
Pollution, is on my skin
Pollution, it’s in my veins
Pollution, is in my chest
Pollution, is in my stomach
Pollution is in my cells
Pollution is here to stay
I remember when I was a young boy, the feeling of pain, the endless coughing, wheezing, fighting for breath, the cold and damp of the winters mornings made things worse, a cough plus a cold was a nightmare. The summers brought along the pollen, the freshly mown grass and the sleepless nights with swollen eyes, runny nose, tightness of breath, wheezing, coughing and itching of eyes and more pain.
That was back in the 1960’s. Industrial prowess was still strong in the UK back then, factories churning out goods and billowing smoke from coal fired furnaces that drove the internal engines of industry, our houses used coal so smoke was heavy in the air, pollution hung over all industrial cities in the UK, children like me suffered from Asthma, no one said why but now we know, it was brought on by pollution and no one was blamed or paid the price for our pain and suffering, many children died in the early years, their frail bodies could not take the toll of the heavy smoke.
So here I am again now in my early 50’s, my home is now China and I’m going through the same thing that I did when I was a young boy, the pollution is heavy, the so called safe PM Index should be below 0-50 but most days it exceeds 150, today the reading is 154 stating Health Advisory: People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion, everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion. In late October 2013 the PM2.5 level registered an astonishing 1,000 in the city of Harbin. This is 40 times what the World Health Organization (WHO) deems safe for humans to breathe. In January 2013, during Beijing’s now infamous “airpocalypse,” scores between 500 and 900 were routine. In the last couple of months, Shanghai has experienced its worst air pollution on record, hitting 600. If we consider that a PM2.5 reading of 500 is the upper limit of the Air Quality Index (AQI) scale, anything beyond 500, or “beyond index” as the Chinese call it, is just plain scary.
What are the short-term and long-term health implications for the people of China?
China’s air is full of pollutants emitted by power plants, heavy industry, building construction, and cars. Breathing in that air, especially what is called particulate matter, poses a serious health threat to human beings. Particulate matter is a term for solid particles and liquid droplets—dust, dirt, smoke, organic chemicals, metals, and so on—suspended in the air. This matter comes in two sizes: particles smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) and particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers. When we inhale, these particles enter into our respiratory system and can travel into our lungs and even our bloodstream. PM2.5 is the more harmful of the two: at a miniscule 2.5 micrometers, these tiny particles, which are less than 1/30 the width of a human hair, can make their way deep into our lungs and lodge there. In the past twenty years, scientific studies have shown that PM10 and PM2.5 are linked to a range of health issues, including shortness of breath, asthma attacks, acute bronchitis, decreased lung function, lung cancer, heart attacks, and premature death.
Consider this: a 2012 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measured the air quality in a typical smoking lounge in a U.S. airport and found the average PM2.5 reading to be 166.6 micrograms per cubic meter. A few months later, in January 2013, the month of the airpocalypse, the daily average PM2.5 reading in Beijing was 194 micrograms per cubic meter. The air Beijingers breathed was 16% worse than the air in a U.S. airport smoking lounge. Imagine breathing in that thick, acrid-tasting mix over the course of a lifetime. Keep in mind, too, that going into a smoking lounge is entirely up to you; breathing the air in Beijing, Harbin, or Shanghai, if you live there, or happen to be visiting, is not.
Two major scientific studies released in the past year leave little doubt as to the havoc that China’s polluted air has wreaked on the health of the Chinese people. A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tsinghua and Hebrew Universities demonstrated that during 1981–2001 the average level of particulate matter in north China was 55% higher than in South China because of the North’s greater dependence on coal for winter heating. This burden of pollution had a stunning effect on life expectancy: the 500 million people in north China lived on average 5.5 fewer years than the residents of south China, owing almost entirely to the higher incidence of cardiorespiratory illness.
The findings of the second study were equally dramatic. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 concluded that particulate matter in outdoor air pollution in China contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010 alone. The study also found that there has been a rise in cardiovascular diseases in China—ischemic heart disease, strokes, and pulmonary disease—all conditions that recent research has shown to be affected by exposure to polluted air. Clearly, China’s air is doing substantial damage to the health of people who breathe it.
What are the economic implications?
The economic costs of air pollution are immense. A number of studies have attempted to calculate the cost of China’s air pollution as a percentage of the country’s GDP, but the figures they arrive at range widely—I’ve seen 2.5% to 10%—depending to a large degree on what metric researchers use and whether they take into account both short-term and long-term health outcomes. Some studies also factor in “material” or “non-health impacts” in addition to “health impacts.”
Polluted air significantly raises morbidity and mortality rates, as the MIT and the Global Burden of Disease studies indicate. These higher rates, in turn, translate into higher medical costs and an increase in missed working days (i.e., lower productivity). Additionally, polluted air results in resource depletion: soil acidification from acid rain reduces the amount of China’s arable land, lowering crop productivity; mercury emitted by coal combustion enters the water systems, contaminating water and affecting fish, rice, vegetables, and fruits; and airborne pollutants kill off trees and forests. Polluted air also takes aim at building structures, hastening their deterioration. Indeed, many worry about the effect that airborne chemicals will have on the country’s precious historical monuments. There are indirect economic effects of the sooty air to consider as well. For instance, as Shanghai revs up efforts to attract foreign businesses to the new Shanghai Free Trade Zone, there is worry that China’s, and now Shanghai’s, reputation for unhealthy air may be a deterrent. Then there’s tourism. Foreign visitors to China were down in 2013 by 5% in the country as a whole and by a full 10.3% in Beijing. Media-drenched events like the January 2013 airpocalypse have likely played a sizable role here.
Is this a China problem?……In my Opinion NO!…This is a world problem, if China was not carrying out the manufacturing for the world allowing us to buy products at the prices we need then the manufacturing would move to another country, maybe even back to your country bringing with it the pollution and the illnesses that China now bares!
We as a global humanity need to bring awareness to the suffering that takes place around the world, we should not just stand there in awe and point the finger at China and say ‘Look at that pollution, its disgusting, they should do something about it!’ Then get on with our day, go out shopping to Wal-Mart and buy lots of cheep (sorry low priced) goods that come from countries like China where the people are suffering from the pollution left behind from the corporate greed of the global companies whose profits are up year on year….But when they get rumbled, they just move on and set up shop in another country that needs their business to fuel their growing economy!
Many of you may say, ‘Why am I still here’, well my answer is, someone needs to be here to help raise awareness, both internal and external awareness, I dearly love China, it is a great country steeped in rich cultural history, a country that has brought our world so many wonderful inventions including the compass, gunpowder, tableware and pottery, alcoholic beverage (fermentation), paper, printing etc., If you would like to learn more about Chinese inventions please take a look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_inventions
If we can come together as one humanity and start taking back some control from the corporates and actively work together as one for the benefit of humanity and not just for the benefit of the few corporate shareholders, then we will stand a chance of turning the tables on pollution, we do collectively have the ability to put things right for the benefit of all.
Namaste with Love