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STANDARDS

NGSS: Core Idea: LS1.D

CCSS: Reading Informational Text: 7

TEKS: 6.12E, 7.10A, 8.11C, B.5B

STANDARDS

NGSS: Core Idea: ESS2.D

CCSS: Reading Informational Text: 9

TEKS: 6.7A, 7.8, 8.11. C.5C

Toxic Air Alert!

China’s air pollution is among the worst in modern history—and its people are suffering because of it

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: What factors might make one region more likely to have worse air pollution than another?

A gray haze hangs over many cities in northern China. The smog can be so thick, people can’t see more than a few blocks ahead. The air quality in this part of China is among the worst in the world and is responsible for about 1.6 million deaths each year—an average of 4,400 deaths per day! The desperate situation is being dubbed an “airpocalypse.” Find out what’s behind China’s smog and what’s being done to reduce it.

A gray haze hangs over many cities in northern China. The smog can be so thick, people can’t see more than a few blocks in front of them. The air quality in this part of China is among the worst in the world. It causes about 1.6 million deaths each year. That’s an average of 4,400 deaths per day! The serious situation is being called an “airpocalypse.” Find out what’s behind China’s smog and what’s being done to reduce it.

POLLUTION WARNING

Last December, the Chinese government issued a “red alert” for 23 cities. This is the highest level of China’s air-quality warning scale. It lasted for five days. During that time, schools were closed, the government advised people to stay indoors, and most vehicles were banned from roadways (see How Small is Smog?).

“On some days, it’s like living next door to a wildfire,” says Loretta Mickley, about China’s poor air quality. Mickley is an atmospheric chemist at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

In winter, much of China’s pollution comes from burning coal for heat. Another cause is the country’s booming economy that has created more factories and power plants that produce air pollution.

Last December, the Chinese government announced a “red alert” for 23 cities. This is the highest level of China’s air-quality warning scale. It lasted for five days. During that time, schools were closed, and the government told people to stay indoors. Most vehicles were banned from roads (see How Small is Smog?).

Loretta Mickley is an atmospheric chemist at Harvard University in Massachusetts. “On some days, it’s like living next door to a wildfire,” she says about China’s poor air quality. In winter, much of China’s pollution comes from burning coal for heat. Another cause is the country’s growing economy. It has created more factories and power plants that produce air pollution.

COURTESY OF U.S. EPA

SMOG LAND

China’s government plans to spend $320 billion through 2020 to reduce air pollution. But the government has only just started to seriously regulate emissions from power plants and factories so they contain fewer pollutants, says Mickley.

The U.S. has been regulating air pollutants since 1970, thanks to a law enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency called the Clean Air Act. Mickley believes China’s efforts are a promising start to tackling the country’s deadly air pollution problem.

China’s government plans to spend $320 billion through 2020 to reduce air pollution. The government is limiting the amount of pollutants that power plants and factories can release into the air. But Mickley says that China has only just started to do this seriously. The U.S. has been controlling air pollutants since 1970. That’s because of a law called the Clean Air Act, enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. Mickley believes China’s efforts are a good start to tackling the country’s deadly air pollution problem.

CORE QUESTION: Explain why air pollution in northern China is especially high.

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