Posts Tagged ‘World Health Organization’
China has seen great economic development over the decades. This has taken place largely to the benefit of their population, but some problems have arisen. China air pollution has become quite a significant concern. They are aware of it of course and some progress has been made in rectifying it. That said, they have a long way to go.
Since 2007, China has been the world’s #1 emitter of greenhouse gases, making air pollution in Asia, including China, a serious global issue. It is at least as serious a problem for the Chinese people. China air quality contributes to the deaths of three quarters of a million people every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
China’s economic growth, combined with industrial equipment that could now be replaced with cleaner technology, is largely responsible for the current China air pollution situation. A major example is cement making. China’s construction and infrastructure-building boom have led the to this country becoming the world’s leading maker of cement. Just over half the worldwide output now comes from China. Concrete production is polluting and highly energy intensive and methods currently used in China compound the problems. Many producers use inefficient shaft kilns, which the West started to abandon at the beginning of the 20th Century. Overall, 6% of the nation’s electricity is used in operating cement-making plants, and much of it is wasted. These unscrubbed kilns also emit vast quantities of mercury, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and other substances of interest. Unscrubbed means the facility is operated without the use of additional technology specifically designed to reduce emissions.
Much of the power requirement of these kilns is met by old-fashioned, unscrubbed coal-burning power plants. Almost 70% of China’s electrical demands are met using coal. The overwhelming majority of China’s greenhouse gas emissions come from this type of source and fuel.
These issues came to the fore during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, which opened with the city clouded in smog. Although the skies did clear up, to what degree air quality improved is a subject of speculation. The Chinese government closed the only independent agency monitoring air pollution in Beijing, the Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants (CERC), for the duration of the games. The data available comes from either independent, but untrained journalists, or the Chinese government and the impartiality of these numbers has been identified as suspicious. Even if the Chinese officials accurately reported China air quality statistics, the standards used for comparison leave something to be desired. While they consider any day with a particulate matter rating below 100 to be a “Blue Sky Day,” the WHO draws their line at 50.
They are making some efforts to reverse their trend towards ever-greater China air pollution. Their reforestation project, “the great wall of green,” will become the world’s single greatest re-planting of forest when completed. However, the country’s progress in other ways has been less promising. In 2000, their government promised that it would reduce the China air pollution by 10 percent by the year 2005. However, China grew to surpass the United States as the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology discovered a link between itchy skin, irritated eyes, and headaches with certain types of pollution.
French researchers studied the air’s nitrogen dioxide, small particulate matter and ozone levels in urban areas surrounding Bordeaux. Bordeaux is an area in France where pollution levels are usually slightly higher than the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The research team collected medical case reports from SOS Medicins, a public health-care network that makes emergency house calls. They concentrated on the number of visits that are related to complaints of respiratory problems including tonsillitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, asthma, bronchitis, or cough, as well as conjunctivitis, skin rash, headaches and asthenia, a conditioned characterized by general feelings of weakness that are usually the result of allergies.
The researchers noted a 1.5 percent and 2.6 percent increase in the number of visits for upper and lower respiratory diseases respectively, a few days after particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide levels rose.
But what is most telling is the increase in doctor visits for other disease. On days when particulate matter was highest, visits for skin rash or conjunctivitis increased by 3.2 percent, while headaches and asthenia rose 3.5 percent.
When ozone levels rose, visits for skin rash or conjunctivitis increased by 3 percent, and 1.7 percent for headaches and asthenia.
Increased levels of nitrogen oxide caused a 2.8 percent increase in visits for headaches and weakness.
We know that air pollution affects the heart and lungs. But, these slight effects of air pollution on human health will likely affect more of us as it worsens.
“Once you start looking at the entire body, we start to realize this is not as benign as we think,” says Neil Kao, MD, an allergist at the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville, SC, and a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “It’s not just bad for your heart—it’s bad for everything.”
Whereas allergy to pollen can trigger obvious reactions like sneezing, the subtle impact of pollution may not be evident immediately. Kao recommends staying indoors during sunny-but-polluted days. “As much as I promote a healthy, happy lifestyle with lots of exercise,” he says, “there are certain days just can’t reset your immune system.”
If polluted air is affecting your health, here are some things you can do to avoid it:
Check the air forecast –stay on top of high-hazard air pollution days.
Stay indoors – staying inside your home helps, but only if the air inside is less polluted than the air outside. Air washers, filters and the like, can help rid the air of particulate matters. However, they are useless against nitrogen oxide, ozone and other harmful gasses. So on days when pollution levels are particularly high, keep you windows shut; and on days when the air is clearer, let your home air out to decrease indoor toxins.
Wear a mask – breathing through masks with an N-95 rating can help cut help lower pollution-related headaches. Wearing protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses when outdoors will keep particulate matter off our skin and out of your eyes.