Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Real-Time Map Reveals China's Deadly Air Pollution

Climate
Real-Time Map Reveals China's Deadly Air Pollution

Using Google maps and new data on China's air pollution, Berkeley researchers created a real-time map of the country's appalling air quality. The map is based on findings that the scientists published last month in the journal PLoS One. Using hourly air pollution data from more than 1,500 sites, researchers concluded that air pollution is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.6 million people in China every year, or about 4,400 people a day. That's roughly 17 percent of all deaths, or put another way, nearly 1 in 5 deaths can be attributed to the country's toxic air pollution.

A near real-time map developed by Berkeley researchers exposes how widespread China's air pollution problem is.

"Earlier studies put China's annual air pollution death toll at one to two million, but this is the first to use newly released Chinese air monitoring figures," says South China Morning PostThe authors of the study are members of Berkeley Earth, an independent nonprofit devoted to "expanding scientific investigations, educating and communicating about climate change, and evaluating mitigation efforts in developing and developed economies."

Though pollution in China's northeast corridor running from Beijing to Shanghai is "particularly intense," the problem is widespread. "Consistent with prior findings, the greatest pollution occurs in the east, but significant levels are widespread across northern and central China and are not limited to major cities or geologic basins," said researchers. They found that during a four month period from April to August 2014, 92 percent of the population experienced more than 120 hours of "unhealthy air" based on the standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And 38 percent experienced long-term average concentrations that were unhealthy.

“[The] map provides near real-time information on particulate matter air pollution less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5),” researchers said. PM2.5 is microscopic particulate matter that is small enough to "lodge deep inside a person's lungs and cause health problems in the long term," says South China Morning Post. “Under typical conditions, PM2.5 is the most damaging form of air pollution likely to be present, contributing to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, respiratory infections and other diseases,” say the researchers.

Today, the map shows the areas around Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Nantong, Nanjing, Yichang, Luzhou, Qíngdao and Laiwu as having "unhealthy" air quality. Large portions of the map fall under the category of "unhealthy for sensitive groups" and the vast majority of the mapped area falls under the "moderate" health category. Only a very few small areas fall under the category of "good." The most unsafe air quality index (180.9) can be found near the city of Yichang, a major economic hub for the region. Its PM2.5 air pollution concentration is 113.4.

To put China's air pollution problem in perspective, look at Madera, California. The American Lung Association lists Madera's air pollution as the worst in the country. And yet, "99.9 percent of the eastern half of China has a higher annual average for small particle haze than Madera," said the study's lead author, Dr Robert Rohde. "In other words, nearly everyone in China experiences air that is worse for particulates than the worst air in the U.S."

Earlier this year, a documentary exposing China's abysmal air quality went viral within days of its release. The film was hailed by some government officials, but was ultimately banned by the state.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

China’s Wildly Viral Smog Documentary Hailed Then Banned by Chinese Officials

Audubon Society: North American Birds Are Threatened by Climate Change

4 Reasons Why El Nino Won’t Solve California’s Epic Drought

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Atlantic puffins courting at Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge in 2009. USFWS / Flickr

When Europeans first arrived in North America, Atlantic puffins were common on islands in the Gulf of Maine. But hunters killed many of the birds for food or for feathers to adorn ladies' hats. By the 1800s, the population in Maine had plummeted.

Read More Show Less
Rescue workers dig through the rubble following a gas explosion in Baltimore, Maryland on Aug. 10, 2020. J. Countess / Getty Images

A "major" natural gas explosion killed two people and seriously injured at least seven in Baltimore, Maryland Monday morning.

Read More Show Less
The recalled list includes red, yellow, white and sweet yellow onions, which may be tainted with salmonella. Pxhere

Nearly 900 people across the U.S. and Canada have been sickened by salmonella linked to onions distributed by Thomson International, the The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Methane flares at a fracking site near a home in Colorado on Oct. 25, 2014. WildEarth Guardians / Flickr

In the coming days, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to use its power to roll back yet another Obama-era environmental protection meant to curb air pollution and slow the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Researchers on the ICESCAPE mission, funded by NASA, examine melt ponds and their surrounding ice in 2011 to see how changing conditions in the Arctic affect the biological and chemical makeup of the ocean. NASA / Flickr

By Alex Kirby

The temperature of the Arctic matters to the entire world: it helps to keep the global climate fairly cool. Scientists now say that by 2035 there could be an end to Arctic sea ice.

Read More Show Less
President Vladimir Putin is seen enjoying the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

Russia's Health Ministry has given regulatory approval for the world's first COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A John Deere agricultural tractor sits under a collapsed building following a derecho storm on Aug. 10, 2020 near Franklin Grove, Illinois. Daniel Acker / Getty Images

A powerful series of thunderstorms roared across the Midwest on Monday, downing trees, damaging structures and knocking out power to more than a million people.

Read More Show Less