In the past 30 years, China’s economy has achieved unprecedented and sustained high-speed growth. However, due to the rapid expansion of resource development and the rapid growth of energy consumption, China’s ecological damage and environmental pollution have reached a very serious level. The solid waste generated per unit of output value is 10 times higher than the average of developed countries, and the sewage load per unit area of the country is about 16.5 times that of the world average; the growth rate of total pollution is several times that of the total output value; the coefficient of economic volatility is more than 4 times the world average.
China has one of the worst air quality in the world. China will soon be the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
According to the estimates of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, in 2002, every 100 million tons of coal burning in China would emit 1.15 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 680,000 tons of soot, and the emission intensity of nitrogen oxides was 8 times the average level of OECD countries. Research shows that the environmental capacity of China’s sulfur dioxide is only 12 million tons, while China’s annual emission of sulfur dioxide is 19.27 million tons, ranking first in the world, far exceeding its own purification capacity, causing 1/3 of the country’s land to be eroded by acid rain. China currently burns about 1.6 billion tons of coal every year, which has caused most of the country to be smoky. If 3 billion tons of coal are to be burned in 2020, 27.5 million to 35.6 million tons of sulfur dioxide will be emitted every year. By that time, not only will acid rain occur in all of China, but it may also bring disaster to neighboring countries.
While the shift from coal to oil or natural gas has partially reduced air pollution in cities, the massive shift from using bicycles and public transport to driving private cars in recent years has negated all of the above benefits and worsened the environment.
The Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning estimates that out of China’s 1.3 billion people, more than 400,000 people die each year from air pollution-related diseases. 1/3 of the country’s land area is affected by acid rain, and it is concentrated in the southeast. If sulfur dioxide emissions are not strictly controlled, the soil will be severely acidified in a few decades, and the south may become a barren land.
Currently, Chinese cities have generally poor air quality. The main pollutants affecting urban air quality are particulate matter from coal combustion and automobile exhaust, and the concentration of total suspended particulate matter in the air of Chinese cities has long exceeded the standard. According to the report of the World Health Organization, China accounts for 7 of the 10 most polluted cities in the world, and China’s Taiyuan City also ranks first.
The annual average of total suspended particulate matter in most cities in China is 300mg/m3, Datong City is 721mg/m3, Lanzhou City is 668mg/m3, and the World Health Organization standard is 90mg/m3, which is shocking. The World Health Organization has concluded that 70% of Chinese cities are uninhabitable by testing 300 Chinese cities.
According to testing by relevant Chinese authorities, among the 342 cities tested, less than 1% of them meet the national first-class standard for ambient air quality., only 38.6% of the cities meet the national secondary standard of ambient air quality (residential area standard), and the population of cities whose ambient air quality does not meet the secondary standard accounts for 60.9% of the total urban population. The concentration of inhalable particulate matter (PM10) in 53.2% of the cities reached the second-level standard; the sulfur dioxide concentration in 74.3% of the cities reached the second-level standard. The cities with heavier particulate matter pollution were mainly distributed in Northwest China, North China, Central Plains and eastern Sichuan.
A typical large city emits thousands of tons of air pollutants into the atmosphere every day. If there is no natural purification effect of the atmosphere, the air will quickly cause fatal damage to humans, animals and plants due to pollution. The rapid development of industry and transportation and the extensive use of fossil fuels discharge dust, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon oxides, ozone and other substances into the atmosphere, seriously deteriorating the air quality, and the resulting greenhouse effect and The destruction of the ozone layer directly threatens the survival of human beings.
Some cities in China have been shrouded in smog for many years, with extremely poor atmospheric visibility. Benxi was once called “a city invisible to satellites” because of the smog. The severe excess of sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere has led to acid rain in most parts of the country. The frequency of acid rain in Yibin, Changsha and other cities is more than 90%. The average pH value of rainfall in Changsha has reached 3.54. The falling of acid rain not only destroys the ecological environment, but also aggravates the corrosion and damage of buildings, railways and bridges and brings huge losses to industry and agriculture.
Read more: Status of acid rain in China
Air pollution in Chinese cities is characterized by a complex type, and industry, life and traffic are the main causes of urban air pollution.
To measure the real wealth of a country, there is a new algorithm in the world, that is to take a country’s environment and natural resources as one of the contents of the accounting. In the report of the world’s per capita wealth released by the United Nations and the World Bank, Australia and Canada are ranked 1st and 2nd in the world due to their rich natural resources, while China is ranked 160th in the world. Compared with other developing countries, Mexico is 12 times higher than China, and Brazil is 7.5 times higher than China.
An analysis by medical and health experts pointed out that China’s industrialization has lifted many people out of poverty, but at the same time has severely damaged the environment; the report pointed out that the air quality of Chinese cities has entered “the worst in the world”, and water pollution has become a serious threat to health. Dangerous environmental factors such as air and water pollution are important causes of death and disease among Chinese residents.
Climate change will make things worse, experts warn, as rising temperatures and more precipitation lead to an increase in natural disasters.
The report pointed out that the Chinese face both new and old environmental risks. Old risks include poor sanitation and air pollution from household burning of charcoal and coal, which kills about 420,000 people prematurely each year.
New threats are inextricably linked to industrialization and urbanization, including air pollution and industrial waste, which kill 1.3 million people each year from various respiratory diseases.
The researchers point out that air pollution is caused by many factors, including the use of charcoal as an industrial fuel, transportation, industrial chemical emissions, construction dust and the incineration of agricultural waste. A considerable number of lakes and major rivers in China are severely polluted. Only half of the 200 existing rivers can provide drinking water, and less than a quarter of the 28 major tidal lakes have this condition.
With Chinese inhaling levels of dangerous particulate matter up to 20 times higher than in the United States, scientists have warned of the potential for a public health crisis in China. Haikou, known as the city with the best air quality in China, ranks after 200 in the air quality rankings of world cities. Cancers (mainly lung cancer, stomach cancer and liver cancer) related to severe air, water and soil pollution have become the main killers of Chinese people’s health and life. Many areas have been considered unfit for human habitation, and sustainable development is even more difficult.
PM2.5: Particles can be deposited in the lungs and pose a great threat to human health. Several groups of scientists have studied smog in China, including Hong Kong, and at least two groups have found higher concentrations of trace metals. Excessive amounts of zinc and chromium can cause problems ranging from premature aging to cancer. In extreme cases, high concentrations of trace metals in the air can even damage human DNA and increase the risk of developing genetic diseases.
Scientists have warned that high concentrations of trace metals could trigger a public health crisis if environmental management is not strengthened. The damage to health from tiny particles depends not only on the number of particles, but also on their type. Trace metals are the most harmful substances in the air to human health.
In the clouds and mists on Mount Tai in Shandong, each liter of water contains 105 μg of iron, and in the clouds and mists of Mount Lu in Jiangxi, iron is 90 μg per liter of water. The value in El Mountain, Arizona, USA, is only 5.6 μg.
The concentration of zinc in the air is even higher in China, where the two mountains in China contain 200 to 250 μg of zinc per liter of water, while the clouds in Eldon Mountain do not contain the metal. After oxidation, zinc can damage the DNA structure in cells. Some damages, such as those caused by certain trace metals, are irreparable.
Other metals or dangerous elements found in the air in China include copper, magnesium, lithium, nickel, arsenic, selenium, and more.