China’s Dirtiest Export


You can offshore manufacturing, but a new study shows that doing so doesn’t mean you’ll fully IMG_0060_4escape the pollution. … According to this study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, up to one quarter of sulfate pollution on the West Coast can be traced back to Chinese factories making goods for export. Overall, pollution being dragged across the Pacific by the wind is responsible for Los Angeles experiencing one additional day each year where smog exceeds federal ozone limits. Smaller amounts of black carbon pollution, a significant component of both climate change and unhealthy air quality, also reaches the west coast of North America.

Previous research, conducted by the US Department of Energy, found that one third of airborne lead particles in the San Francisco Bay area could be traced to pollution originating in Asia.

A reader sent the above photo last month:

It’s from Pyoengtaek, South Korea (about 60 miles south of Seoul). Thanks, Chinese pollution! See here for a related article on the problem.

Sydney Brownstone has more:

That pollution definitely translates to a health impact on American citizens, says the study’s co-author, University of California-Davis earth scientist Steve Davis. Still, he points out a small conundrum. “If you imagine we tried to make these things at home, rather than having them made for us in China, that manufacturing would happen on the East Coast. So air quality on the East Coast would suffer, but the West Coast would improve because we wouldn’t have this Chinese pollution blowing over.” Homegrown manufacturing, however, would likely create a net environmental benefit. “In terms of global pollution, for every widget that is made in the U.S., there is less pollution than that widget made in China,” Davis said. “They have less controls and technologies in place at this point.”

Keating notes that viewed another way, China has imported much more pollution from the US than it sends back:

This is one area where China may have something of a point when it comes to culpability for emissions. China’s pollution isn’t solely of its own doing. They’re tied to an export economy making goods for other countries, the U.S. most of all. America’s emissions are lower partially because China’s are higher. Viewed a different way, this is not so much a question of “China’s smog” reaching America as the vast majority of smog from the manufacture of American goods staying in China. Of course, as China’s economy continues to shift from export to consumption, this equation is going to change.