Millions of people in China are breathing a cocktail of chemicals every day. These chemicals are mostly caused by man-made sources: coal-fired power plants, factories and vehicles. They are highly hazardous and responsible for heart disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses, birth defects and cancer in the country.
I’m a Chinese, and I’ve been living there for several decades. Air pollution in China is absolutely not an exaggerating problem. The pollution-made haze or smog covers the land almost each day. Without a mask, it’s basically impossible to step out from your door. With a booming economy and increasing demand for energy, China has built new coal-fired power plants at an astonishing rate. While cars and trucks also contribute to air pollution in cities, it will be impossible to improve air quality in China without moving away from coal.
Coal burning is the biggest contributor of air pollution in Beijing and surrounding area. Outdoor air pollution is shown to link to premature deaths and child asthma in the worst air quality areas in China.
Now, China cannot afford to allow air pollution to continue taking such a heavy toll. The coal industry may well enhance the country’s economy, but it also brings intense conditions to the environment and public health. To turn around the deteriorating air conditions, China must fundamentally change its development model, starting with a significant reduction in coal consumption.