A clinic dedicated to treating victims of China’s notorious smog has opened its doors in Sichuan Provence, southwest China.
Wang Qixun, a doctor at Chengdu No. 7 People’s Hospital, which runs the clinic, told the A.P. that over 100 people have already received treatment in the clinic’s first week. Patients’ symptoms range from coughs and sore or itching throats, to asthma and cardiovascular problems.
China has garnered a lot of undesired publicity over the last year for its growing air pollution crisis. A major source is its 2,300 (and growing) dirty coal plants. In January, Beijing experienced its worst air pollution on record — levels of particulate matter topped out at 723 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers 25 or less micrograms per cubic meter ideal for human health. Above 300 is considered hazardous. In October, air pollution nearly shut down the entire city of Harbin, and in December, extreme air pollution forced children and the elderly in Shanghai behind closed doors and windows for at least seven days.
Particulate matter (PM) is mostly made up of sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon, mineral dust and water. PM is classified by the size of the particles, with the smallest particles, PM2.5 considered the most dangerous because they can become lodged deep in people’s lungs.
According to the WHO, chronic exposure to particulate matter contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. PM2.5 was also officially designated as a carcinogen in October. In November, an official Chinese news report, announced that an 8-year-old girl in the eastern province of Jiangsu had been diagnosed with lung cancer and that her doctors were attributing the disease to air pollution. The girl is the youngest-ever to be diagnosed with lung cancer in China.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently reported that in 2010, exposure to ambient fine particles was estimated to have contributed to 223,000 deaths from lung cancer, with more than half of those deaths projected to have been in China and other East Asian countries. Another recent study, in Nature Climate Change, found that up to three million premature deaths could be avoided each year globally by 2100 if aggressive carbon emissions cuts are made.
China imported more coal in 2012 than any country in history.
China has responded to the pollution catastrophe and the negative international limelight that comes with it, in a number ways that send conflicting messages. A journalist at CCTV, China’s national broadcaster, tried to convince the public that the smog has made Chinese people more united, equal, clear-headed, humorous and knowledgeable. A Chinese newspaper claimed that the country’s murky, opaque skies offered a military advantage as smog would hamper missile guidance that relies on human sight, infrared rays, or lasers.