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January 25, 2013

China's Skies: Toxic levels of pollution

No country in history has become a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage. China is clearly not an exception. The speed and scale of China's rise has brought an unprecedented pollution problem. Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China's leading cause of death according to the Ministry of Health. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. The factories and spewing automobile engines recently caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled in and around Beijing. Stores are selling out of face masks and the government struggles to figure out this political challenge and provide relief of the long-term burden on its people. -- Paula Nelson ( 47 photos total)

A woman wears a mask as she does her morning exercise outdoors in Fuyang, Anhui province, Jan. 14, 2013. China's environmental watchdog has ordered greater efforts to issue early warnings for air quality. (China Daily/Reuters)

Window cleaners hang from the side of a building on an extremely hazy day in Beijing Oct. 26, 2012. China's heavily polluted capital plans to reduce air pollution levels by 15 percent by 2015 and 30 percent by 2020 by phasing out old cars, relocating factories and planting new forests. (David Gray/Reuters) #

Smoking chimneys and the cooling tower of a coal-burning plant stand next to electric pylons on a hazy day in Wuhan, Hubei province, Dec. 6, 2012. China will spend 350 billion yuan ($56 billion) by 2015 to curb air pollution in major cities. (Reuters) #

A laborer works atop a building in Hefei on a hazy day, Anhui province, Jan. 14, 2013. Chinese media reports the government had to take urgent action to tackle air pollution. (Reuters) #

Vehicles drive on the Third Ring Road on a very hazy winter day in Beijing, Jan. 12, 2013. Microscopic pollutant particles in the air have killed some 8,600 people prematurely in 2012 and cost $1 billion in economic losses in four Chinese cities, according to a study by Beijing University and Greenpeace. (Jason Lee/Reuters) #

Vehicles run slowly in heavy fog in Hefei, central China's Anhui province, Jan. 14, 2013. Shares in a Chinese face mask manufacturer soared on January 15 as investors looked for opportunities to cash in on the severe air pollution that has blanketed large swathes of China. (AFP/Getty Images) #

A woman helps adjust a mask for her friend outside an amusement park on a hazy day in Beijing, Jan. 12, 2013. Air pollution levels in China's notoriously dirty capital were at dangerous levels, with cloudy skies blocking visibility and warnings issued for people to remain indoors. (Alexander F. Yuan/Associated Press) #

A woman checks her phone during polluted weather in Beijing, Jan. 13, 2013. Dense smog shrouded Beijing, with pollution at hazardous levels for a second day and residents were advised to stay indoors. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #

A woman waits for a bus in Beijing, Jan. 15, 2013. Public anger in China at dangerous levels of air pollution, which blanketed Beijing in acrid smog, spread as state media queried official transparency and the nation's breakneck speed of development. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #

Buildings are shrouded in haze as pedestrians walk across a bridge above a main road in central Beijing Oct. 27, 2012. China's heavily polluted capital plans to reduce air pollution levels by 15 percent by 2015 and 30 percent by 2020 by phasing out old cars, relocating factories and planting new forests. (David Gray/Reuters) #

Cars run on an elevated road as buildings in the background are covered in haze, Beijing, China, Jan. 15, 2013. A succession of heavily polluted days hit Beijing, prompting the government to issue a first-ever orange warning. Heavy pollution and poor visibility led to the cancelation of flights, and several schools banned all outdoor activities. Air quality improved from 'dangerous' to 'unhealthy' on a sixth day of thick, grey skies that limited visibility and sent people to hospital with breathing difficulties. (Diego Azubel/EPA) #

A parking attendant stands on a roadside during severe pollution in Beijing, Jan. 12, 2013. Air quality data released via the US embassy twitter feed recorded air quality index levels so hazardous that they were 'Beyond Index'. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #

A man rides in heavy fog in Hefei, central China's Anhui province Jan. 14, 2013. Shares in a Chinese face mask manufacturer soared on January 15 as investors looked for opportunities to cash in on the severe air pollution that has blanketed large swathes of China. (AFP/Getty Images) #

A man on a street on a hazy winter day in central Beijing, Jan. 13, 2013. Air quality in Beijing was the "worst on record", according to environmentalists, as the city's pollution monitoring centre warned residents to stay indoors with pollution 30-45 times above recommended safety levels. (Petar Kujundzic/Reuters) #

A man walks along trees on a heavy hazy winter day in central Beijing, Jan. 12, 2013. Microscopic pollutant particles in the air have killed some 8,600 people prematurely in 2012 and cost $1 billion in economic losses in four Chinese cities, according to a study by Beijing University and Greenpeace. (Jason Lee/Reuters) #

Traffic gridlock in Hong Kong, Dec. 5, 2012. Asia is facing epic air pollution and likely to see more than 800,000 people in the region die each year due to exposure to bad air, an environmental group warned. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images) #

Local residents face a fifth day of heavy smog in Beijing, China, Jan. 14, 2013. Extreme air pollution, well into the range deemed hazardous by both international and newly implemented domestic standards has led to cancelled flights, closed factories and new restrictions on government use of cars. (Adrian Bradshaw/EPA) #

A teacher leads her students in exercise during a break in a classroom on a foggy day in Jinan, Shandong province, Jan. 14, 2013. Heavy fog enveloped a large swathe of east and central China, with the city's residents being advised to stay indoors to avoid the heavily polluted air. (China Daily/Reuters) #

Students exercise in a classroom building on a foggy day in Jinan, Shandong province, Jan. 14, 2013. Residents of the area were advised to stay indoors to avoid the heavily polluted air. (China Daily/Reuters) #

Friends relax in Tai Mo Shan Country Park in the New Territories, in Hong Kong, China, Nov. 4, 2012. Tai Mo Shan is the highest peak in Hong Kong, with an altitude of 957 meters above the sea level. Despite a very high population density, pollution and other environmental issues common to modern big cities, three-quarters of Hong Kong is countryside. (Jerome Favre/EPA) #

Xuanwu Lake under heavy fog in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu province on Jan. 14, 2013, and the same view taken during non-polluted weather, March 31, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images) #

Heavy smoke from chimneys in Wangjing community, Beijing, Jan. 14, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images) #

A farmer turns soil to plant crops as chimneys from the huge state-owned lead smelter are visible behind him in the town of Tianying, Anhui Province, Nov. 19, 2012. In ramshackle semi-industrial Tianying, a state-owned lead smelter and foundry sits at the centre of town, behind high walls and secure gates that make it look more like a prison than the mainstay of the local economy. (David Gray/Reuters) #

A chimney within the grounds of the huge state-owned lead smelter in the town of Tianying, Anhui Province, Nov. 19, 2012. Decades of pollution from it and similar plants - Tianying once accounted for half of China's total lead output - has made much of the town's land uninhabitable and its water undrinkable. (David Gray/Reuters) #

Residents plant trees, in an attempt to rejuvenate the soil, in front of the huge state-owned lead smelter in the town of Tianying, Nov. 19, 2012. (David Gray/Reuters) #

A Chinese protester holds up a banner which reads "PX get out of Ningbo, get out of China" as they march in Zhejiang province's Ningbo city, protesting the proposed expansion of a petrochemical factory, Oct. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) #

A woman rides past old fishing boats on her motorcycle in Qingdao city, Shandong province, China, May 14, 2012. Reports state that excessive fishing, ocean pollution and the high price of diesel have caused a sharp decline in fishery resources, nearly paralyzing the industry in East China. (Wu Hong/EPA) #

Chinese villager, Wang Xiuzhen, 54, of Xiangnan Village shows her dust covered hands from the thick dust particles that permeate her home originating from a nearby chemical plant in Zekou Town, Qianjiang City of Hubei Province, China, Jan. 14 2013. Wang says her home is always covered in dust no matter how often she cleans. She suffers from heart and breathing problems due to the pollution from the chemical plant that is just separated from the village by a narrow river. Villagers in a small town of Hubei Province have been grappling with severe air, water and noise pollution on a daily basis over the past two years. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

Thick grime and dust, a result of pollution from a nearby chemical plant, covers the window panes of a house as a villager of Xiangnan Village cooks in her home in Zekou Town, Jan. 15, 2013. China's Xinhua news reported Jan. 4, 2013 that more than 60 cancer deaths in various villages of Zekou Town have been caused by the heavy pollution from the chemical industry park nearby. (How Hwee Young/ EPA) #

Li Wuyi, of Xiangnan Village, cares for her husband Xie Xianwen, who has lung cancer in the terminal stages in their home, Jan. 14, 2013. She believes his cancer was caused by the pollution from the chemical plant nearby and now he can't even rest properly as constant noise pollution from the factories deprive him of sleep. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

Xie Pingying, of Xiangnan Village, covers her ears from the noise pollution caused by a chemical plant just outside their village in Zekou Town, Qianjiang City, Jan. 14, 2013. Xie says the constant noise from the chemical plant causes her immense stress and that she also suffers from heart, throat and eye problems due to the pollution. More than 20 chemical plants were built around the villages of Dongtan, Xiangnan, Zhoutan, Sunguai, Qingnian and others over the past two years resulting in huge increases in noise, air and water pollution. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

He Cai-er of Xiangnan Village, who suffered a cerebral infarction, which she believes was caused by pollution from a nearby chemical plant, behind her CT scans at home in Zekou Town, Qianjiang City, Jan. 15, 2013. Many villagers in the area complain of intensifying respiratory, heart, skin and circulatory illnesses caused by the pollution and a large spike in cancer diagnoses and deaths since the factories were built. (How Hwee Young/ EPA) #

Dong Chongxin, of Dongtan Village, washes lotus roots in a polluted river across from the Jinhuarun Chemical Industry plant in Zekou Town, Qianjiang City of Hubei Province, China, Jan. 15, 2013. Dong used to breed fish in fishing ponds by the river but now the water is so polluted from discharge from the chemical plant that all the fish have died and the ponds are now just muddy swamps where only lotus roots will grow. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

A Chinese villager of Xiangnan Village wipes dust from a picture frame of his grandson who has been sent away from the village to escape the pollution from nearby chemical plants, Jan. 15, 2013. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

Wang Xinyu, of Xiangnan Village, walks home with an empty basket because produce from area farmland is adversely affected by pollution from a nearby chemical plant in Zekou Town, Jan. 14, 2013. Many villagers complain of intensifying respiratory, heart, skin and circulatory illnesses caused by the pollution in addition to a large spike in cancer diagnoses and deaths since the factories were built. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

Diseased vegetables, due to pollution from the nearby Jinhuarun Chemical Industry plant, at a farm in Hannan Village, Jan. 14, 2013. Villagers in a small town of Hubei Province have been grappling with severe air, water and noise pollution on a daily basis over the past two years. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

Dried meats hang outside the Jinhuarun Chemical Industry plant in an industrial park in Zekou Town, Qianjiang City of Hubei Province, Jan. 14, 2013. In addition to the negative effects on food crops, many villagers complain of intensifying respiratory, heart, skin and circulatory illnesses caused by the pollution. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

A villager from Dongtan Village displays cotton grown from polluted fields caused by a nearby chemical plant in their village and normal cotton grown outside of the village in Zekou Town, Jan. 14, 2013. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

People walk past Jinhuarun Chemical Industry plant in Zekou Town, Jan. 14, 2013. More than 20 chemical plants were built around the villages of Dongtan, Xiangnan, Zhoutan, Sunguai, Qingnian and others over the past two years resulting in huge increases in noise, air and water pollution. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

Chinese villager, Dong Wuyong, of Dongtan Village, suffers from a skin rash on her face that has become more serious over the years due to pollution from a nearby chemical plant in Zekou Town, Qianjiang City, Jan. 15, 2013. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

Chinese villager, Dong Aicun, of Dongtan Village, adjusts flowers by the grave of her mother, Huang Hongmei, who died from throat cancer last year in Zekou Town, Qianjiang City, Jan. 15, 2013. (How Hwee Young/EPA) #

Workers clean the heavily polluted Nanming River in Guiyang, southwest China's Guizhou province, Nov. 17, 2012. China will start assessing the "social risk" of major projects, after anti-pollution protests forced a series of industrial ventures to be cancelled. (AFP/Getty Images) #

Workers clean the heavily polluted Nanming River in Guiyang, southwest China's Guizhou province. (AFP/Getty Images) #

Chinese anti-riot police outside the city government office in Zhejiang province's Ningbo city, Oct. 28, 2012, where residents had gathered to protest the proposed expansion of a petrochemical factory. Thousands of protesters marched, shouting for fellow citizens to join them in demanding that the government halt the expansion of a petrochemical factory because of pollution fears. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press) #

Chinese anti-riot police form a barrier outside the city government office in Zhejiang province's Ningbo city, where residents had gathered to protest the proposed expansion of a petrochemical factory, Oct. 28, 2012. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press) #

Protesters hold up a defaced picture of the Ningbo city mayor, Liu Qi, outside the city government office in Zhejiang province's Ningbo city, Oct. 28, 2012, where residents had gathered to protest the proposed expansion of a petrochemical factory fearing the worst for its negative effects on the environment. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press) #



 
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