Scientist have compared China’s air pollution to a nuclear winter.  China’s severely high levels of pollution threaten agriculture by slowing plant photosynthesis. In addition, soil pollution has reached more than 8% of China’s arable land.  Manufacturing waste discharged into rivers, waterways and the ocean contaminate the water that would otherwise be used for irrigation, consumption and fishing.

China is growing fast. In order to keep up with the energy demands of this explosive population growth over the past decades, China’s government has built hundreds of coal burning plants and this number is expected to increase over the next decades, economist predict this will increase by 50% in 25 years.  To power these coal-burning plants, China must also mine for coal.  The total number of coal mines currently found in China is 18,557.  In total, China is responsible for burning “4 billion tons of coal a year”, that is 3 billion more than the USA and 3.4 billion more than the European Union.

Fresh air for Chinese city dwellers is a rare commodity, only 1% of China’s 560 estimated city dwellers breath air considered safe enough by European Union standards.  The Particular Matter (particle pollution) measurements in Chinese cities are particularly high with some cities such as Harbin, China reaching levels of 1,000.  PM is measured in a scale from 0-500, with a value of 0-50 considered good, 51-100 moderate, and 101-150 unhealthy for sensitive groups, levels of 150-200 are considered unhealthy, and levels of 301+ hazardous.   Is hardly uncommon for other cities in China such as Beijing to reach PM levels of 755.  The highest PM ever recorded in the USA was 43 in Los Angeles, CA.

Air pollution alone is responsible for a large number of deaths in China, in 2012 Beijing alone suffered an estimated 2,589 recorded deaths (government transparency is still a huge issue in China).

Sadly, based on on current trends pollution will only get worse, despite the fact Chinese government investment in renewable energy continues to grow.

Below are 30 images illustrating the severity of the issue.

Coal worker bathing

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Frog in polluted water (surprised is still alive)

FLEX BALL STILL-LIFE allianzinvestors.com

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Vehicles drive on the Third Ring Road on a very hazy winter day in Beijing

Blend of chemicals directly discharged into the ocean

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Navigating through a sea of dead fish

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Oil spill clean up

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Particle pollution as seen from space

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Algae bloom attributed to the chemical imbalance in water due to pollution (yay, at least some organisms are able to thrive)  

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The only blue sky you’ll ever see in cities such as Beijing, used mainly by tourist as a background for their photos (whatever happened to photoshop) 

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Booming along side pollution is the number of pollution measuring apps available for purchase via the internet in China

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Workers cleaning up a waterway

Workers clear away rubbish along a river in Rui'an, Zhejiang province

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China Air Pollution

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Polluted waterway

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Child swims in green muck- algae covered water

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Contaminated soil

China, pollution

A child is reflected in a drainage ditch as he jumps over trash at a village which will soon be demolished, on the outskirts of Jiaxing city

Child drinking contaminated water from sewage drainage

A child drinks water near a stream in Fuyuan county

Scientist collecting blood and water samples, pig butchering facility up-stream dumps the blood directly into a waterway

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Another worker cleaning up dead-fish 

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(FILES) This picture taken 18 July 2006

Believe it or not recycled plastic is in great demand in China, so big that the US shipped much of the recycled plastic there.  Recycling plastic, considering the scope of the issue, these efforts are microscopic in nature.

A worker unloads waste plastic bottles at the Xiejiacun waste collection market in Beijing

Sources:

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/the_soil_pollution_crisis_in_china_a_cleanup_presents_daunting_challenge/2786/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/25/china-toxic-air-pollution-nuclear-winter-scientists

http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat10/sub66/item392.html

http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/chinas-growing-coal-use-is-worlds-growing-problem-16999

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/science/earth/beijing-air-pollution-off-the-charts.html?_r=0

http://www.worldcoal.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions/

http://news.yahoo.com/8-scary-facts-chinas-smogpocalypse-145300426.html

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/09/18/1239747/-Think-your-plastic-is-being-recycled-Think-again#