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China’s Air Pollution Results in Youngest Lung Cancer Patient, Just Eight Years Old

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China's air pollution generators, such as this coal-fired power plant, in Shuozhou, are killing hundreds of people.
China’s air pollution generators, such as this coal-fired power plant, in Shuozhou, are killing hundreds of people.

Thanks to China’s growth-at-all-costs economic expansion policy, one of those costs has been manifested in worsening air pollution.

According to some studies, up to 40% of premature deaths linked to air pollution are occurring in China highlighting an even greater human cost, especially infants and elderly, whose immune systems can’t handle the toxins in the air. One of the latest cases involves a young girl, who has developed lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates the average age for lung cancer to develop is seventy, but this young girl is just eight years old.

The air pollution in China, especially her biggest cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, is a toxic soup of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, PM2.5 [particulate matter 2.5µm], and others. Reaction with sunlight results in smog, which has reduced visibility in the city, sometimes as low as 50m [164ft]. In order to get a handle on the air pollution problem, China has tried shutting down air and ground transportation, which does little to actually solve the problem. Two weeks ago, Harbin shut down schools for a few days, because Chinese students are literally choking on the air.

Lung cancer and heart disease have both been linked to PM2.5, or soot, which is generated by dirty motor vehicle engines and coal-fired power plants and industry with little to no environmental controls. Concentrations of PM2.5 have exceeded 1,000µg/m3, about 40x WHO [World Health Organization] safe limits. The young cancer patient in question, just eight years old, lives along a busy highway in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. I can’t stress this enough. The average lung cancer patient is diagnosed at seventy years of age. This girl is just eight years old.

Sometimes the effects of one’s actions are immediate. Stub your toe or smash your thumb and you experience immediate pain. Build dirty coal-fired power plants and inefficient and dirty engines and your people may not pay for it for years or decades, but they will pay with their lives. China’s Health Ministry is finally agreeing to check out the link between chronic illnesses [and cancer] and the growing air pollution problem.

Image © By Kleineolive (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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