China, which is notorious for its record-breaking levels of air pollution, is now pledging to monitor the “long-term impact of chronic air pollution on human health.” The country will create a national network to study the health effects of smog, acknowledging that it hasn’t done a good enough job of collecting this data in the past.
There’s already a growing body of research that points to the harmful health effects of pollution. Long-term exposure to air pollution has been linked to everything from kidney damage to higher infant mortality rates. Pollution kills over two and half million people around the world each year, making it deadlier to our health than high cholesterol. Earlier this month, it was officially classified as a carcinogen.
Nonetheless, China has struggled with off-the-chart records of smog for years. Earlier this month, extremely bad air quality nearly shut down an entire Chinese city. The main cause of the pollution is China’s rapidly growing levels of coal production, which officials tend to brush aside as the inevitable consequence of modernization. Chinese officials are now spearheading several different policies to attempt to cut coal consumption and improve air quality, including publishing a monthly list of the cities with the best and worst levels of air pollution.
Air pollution in the United States may not be as serious of an issue as it is in China, but the health effects from smog still plague Americans. According to the American Lung Association, more than 40 percent of Americans live in areas where air pollution counts often reach dangerous levels. This issue tends to disproportionately effect low-income people, who are more likely to live in areas with dirty air.