Sunday, November 4, 2007

China's Pollution Hits Us

World's coal dependency hits environment

The Associated Press
TAIYUAN, China - It takes five to 10 days for the pollution from China's coal-fired plants to make its way to the United States, like a slow-moving storm.

It shows up as mercury in the bass and trout caught in Oregon's Willamette River. It increases cloud cover and raises ozone levels. And along the way, it contributes to acid rain in Japan and South Korea and health problems everywhere from Taiyuan to the United States.

This is the dark side of the world's growing use of coal.

Cheap and abundant, coal has become the fuel of choice in much of the world, powering economic booms in China and India that have lifted millions of people out of poverty. Worldwide demand is projected to rise by about 60 percent through 2030 to 6.9 billion tons a year, most of it going to electrical power plants.

But the growth of coal-burning is also contributing to global warming, and is linked to environmental and health issues including acid rain and asthma. Air pollution kills more than 2 million people prematurely, according to the World Health Organization.

"Hands down, coal is by far the dirtiest pollutant," said Dan Jaffe, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington who has detected pollutants from Asia at monitoring sites on Mount Bachelor in Oregon and Cheeka Peak in Washington state. "It is a pretty bad fuel on all scores."

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