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It’s been a bad year for air quality in China. Rampant industrial pollution has caused cities like Beijing and Shanghai to be shrouded in a cloud of toxic emissions, and now China’s most vulnerable citizens are feeling the heath effects of the economic development. As smog across northern China surged to record-breaking levels this winter, many children began to experience unexplained illness and breathing problems. Many mothers now forbid their children to play outside, fearing that the very air will pollute their young lungs even further.

china pollution, air quality, health, smog

In the United States, we practically beg our children to go play outside. Too much time indoors leads to its own health problems, like a lack of Vitamin D and obesity. Chinese children are now expressly forbidden to spend more time outdoors than necessary, with many schools canceling outdoor activities and field trips.

The necessity of going to school means that parents are now choosing which educational system their children will attend based on what kind of air-filtration systems they can offer, and some international schools have built gigantic, futuristic-looking domes over sports fields to ensure healthy breathing. Think about that for a second: parts of our planet are already so polluted that we must literally stay inside a protective bubble to survive. This isn’t a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, it’s happening right now.

The country’s Communist leaders have promised to take action to clean up China’s atmosphere, but many are doubtful that they’ll follow up on these claims. Even fewer feel that they can believe reports about pollution levels delivered by the government.

Unfortunately, outrage about such life-threatening conditions is only now beginning to grow among the Chinese people. Many simply dream of leaving the problem behind. “I hope in the future we’ll move to a foreign country,” Ms. Zhang, a lawyer, told the NY Times as her ailing son, Wu Xiaotian, played on a mat in their apartment, near a new air purifier. “Otherwise we’ll choke to death.”

The United States and other wealthy nations offer clearer air now, but with industry and political lobbies fighting air and water regulations every step of the way, that boast may not last much longer.

via New York Times