Thick and Heavy Sky of Beijing
by Veranika Basak
China. Beijing. Monday morning. Smell of sweet breakfast buns… and industrial smog. This is one of those days when air pollution in Beijing reaches its hazardous peak. Thousands of residents are rushing to work, covering their faces with masks to filter out the pollution. This shield is very weak in front of ruthless air pollutants. There is no place to hide: air quality both inside and outside is the same – harmful, unhealthy, and potentially fatal. Hazardous air targets everyone, from young to old, but it is especially unsafe for vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems. Tomorrow residents of Beijing may again enjoy a blue sky and breathe in fresher air, yet whether they experience a short- or a long-term exposure to air pollutants, this has an adverse effect on their health.
Every single cell of a human body experiences negative consequence of air pollution. Irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat is only the tip of the iceberg. Asthma is the number one disease associated with exposure to bad air quality, but it is certainly not the only one. Pregnant women and newborns are most strongly impacted by air pollutants. Low birth weights of newborns and preterm birth have been reported among Chinese women, especially those from Beijing. According to the study, the temporary reduction of air pollution around the Beijing Olympics through the closure of industries and raise in vehicle emission standards, resulted in increased weight of newborns. This indicates the direct connection between the poor air quality and health of infants. Yet, air pollution is still the biggest environmental health risk. Short-term exposure to hazardous air is the cause of acute health problems for mothers-to-be, their fetuses and their newborns. A breath of hazardous air may lead to long-term complications for a newborn, such as respiratory or neurological problems. Sudden infant death syndrome is the worst- case scenario. Air pollution also harms adults: respiratory symptoms, bronchitis, lung cancer, and emphysema among adults are associated with air pollution in Beijing. Reduced pulmonary functions and high mortality are directly linked to industrial smog that shrouds the whole city.
Coal industry and millions of motor vehicles in Beijing have created a slow, yet powerful, weapon of destruction that from time to time wraps the whole city into thick and heavy smog. Statistics speaks for itself – highly contaminated air contributes to millions of deaths in China yearly. Urgent actions are required to rescue the future not only of Beijing, but the whole state.
For more information about health consequences of air pollution in Beijing, click the link and check out the print article cited, as well:
Xu, X., Wang, L., & Niu, T. (1998). Air Pollution and its Health Effects in Beijing. Ecosystem Health, 4(4), 199-209.