China's Pollution Taints U.S. Air

Study measures bad air blowing across Pacific

Jan 21, 2014
Outside Magazine
Los Angeles Downtown Smog

Downtown Los Angeles choked in smog.    Matt Gush/iStockphoto

Second-hand pollution wafting from China leads to at least one extra day per year of ozone smog for Los Angeles residents, and accounts for as much as a quarter of the sulfate pollution on the West Coast, according new scientific research.

The paper, co-authored by Chinese, British, and American earth scientists, was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. The study is the first to quantify how emissions produced in the manufacturing of cell phones, televisions, and other consumer items in China reach the American West Coast.

black carbon pollution map study science
Annual average percent of black carbon pollution related to Chinese exports.   Photo: Courtesy of University of California, Irvine

Ironically, American's affinity for cheaply-produced Chinese products is directly responsible for Chinese pollutants breathed on U.S. soil. The study estimates that exported goods contribute to as much as one-third of the air pollution in China.

"When you buy a product at Wal-Mart," study co-author and UC-Irvine associate professor Steve Davis said in a statement, "it has to be manufactured somewhere. The product doesn’t contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution.”

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