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China Pollution Reaches US As Emissions Blow Across Pacific Ocean

Image: China Pollution Reaches US As Emissions Blow Across Pacific Ocean

By Clyde Hughes   |   Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014 02:23 PM

Pollution from China's burgeoning export industry reaches the U.S., a study shows, and is responsible for the drop in air quality in the western United States after dirty emissions make their way across the Pacific Ocean.

The Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences reported that easterly winds are blowing pollutants from China power plants and factories to the western United States, taking about six days for dirty emissions to reach California, Oregon, and Washington.

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"Rising emissions produced in China are a key reason global emissions of air pollutants have remained at a high level during 2000-2009 even as emissions produced in the United States, Europe, and Japan have decreased," researchers wrote in the study. "Outsourcing production to China does not always relieve consumers in the United States — or, for that matter, many countries in the Northern Hemisphere — from the environmental impacts of air pollution."

Scientists from the United States, China, and the United Kingdom examined data from 2006 in an attempt to quantify how much air pollution was reaching the U.S. West Coast. The pollution comes from China's production of goods for export.

Scientists followed air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides carbon monoxide and black carbon from China to the United States to gauge their effects on air quality.

"We've outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us," Steve Davis, a University of California at Irvine scientist and a co-author of the study, told The Washington Post. "Given the complaints about how Chinese pollution is corrupting other countries' air, this paper shows that there may be plenty of blame to go around." 

Los Angeles has at least one extra day of smog that exceeds federal ozone standards because of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide emitted by Chinese factories, according to the study.

Higher rates of sulfate pollution on the West Coast can also be tied to Chinese exports, the report found.

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