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Is China's air pollution really worse than America's?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While China and the U.S. remain competitive economically, there's one thing that the Chinese are doing wrong, to the point where there have been comparison to cities in the U.S. to their own: air pollution. Thick, heavy smog covers much of Beijing. In stark contrast, Chicago's skyline is bright and blue, its buildings wrapped in sunshine.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - The Web site, called China Air Daily at chinaairdaily.com features a daily collection of photos of seven cities, four in China and three in the United States. The site provides a daily record of pollution levels in Chinese cities and compares them with US cities using photos, data and satellite images from NASA.

Founder Michael Zhao says that the idea for the Web site "came from a simple idea that taking a picture every day is a direct way of seeing what the pollution looks like.

"If you look at the pictures of Beijing, at some times of the year the air pollution is really bad. That is basically the idea of talking about air pollution through the medium of these pictures," he said.

Beijing authorities have urged residents, especially the elderly, children and those suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases to stay indoors. Unhealthful air quality is a major problem in China's major urban centers.

The U.S. embassy in Beijing, which monitors air quality from its rooftop and publishes pollution levels on a Twitter feed, described the pollution levels as "beyond index."

The head of the Ministry of Environmental Protection Department of Pollution Prevention and Control Zhao Hualin said last month that 70 percent of Chinese cities fail to meet new air quality standards introduced by the Chinese government.

Two studies have highlighted the health dangers and economic costs of air pollution in China. As published in the Lancet medical journal, air pollution, especially fine particulate matter such as soot, contributes to more than 3.2 million premature deaths worldwide annually, with most of these deaths occurring in China and other Asian countries.

A report by Greenpeace East Asia and Peking University's School of Public Health estimated that air pollution was the cause of 8,572 premature deaths in four major Chinese cities, and resulted in a total of $1.08 billion in economic losses in 2012.

Zhao, based in the United States says he notices the difference in air quality when he flies to Beijing. "The contrast immediately registers with you," he said. "When you stay in Beijing for a couple of days, you feel something in your throat that bothers you and tells you something is different and you can see that the air is smoggy."

When he was in Beijing "you couldn't see the sky for many days. For the people living there all their lives it is even worse. I got to talk to people there about air pollution."

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