The Rich Get Richer, the Rest Get Lung Cancer—Air Pollution Reality Check

Air pollution has become the leading cause of cancer. (Dai Luo/Flickr)
Air pollution has become the leading cause of cancer. (Dai Luo/Flickr)

Some people say that China’s economic growth is the result of window dressing and its blood tainted GDP shows suicidal growth. Both of these statements are true. I just want to add one more remark, “This economic miracle goes go hand in hand with cancer.”

I can’t help but think of that famous party quote, “Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), all miracles can be created!” China’s air pollution and air quality indexes are fairly lenient when it comes to long term health effects.

In recent years, especially this year, air pollution has not only acted like a boulder crushing people’s hearts, but has also attracted the media’s attention.

Haze is rapidly rising again

According to reports, 10 provinces in China simultaneously have fog and haze. Beijing, which also uses an older color warning system called the Air Pollution Index (API), issued a blue severe air pollution warning and a yellow haze warning, but they mostly use the API now.

In February, due to fog and haze, many highways from Beijing, Hong Kong and Macao were closed and so were 16 highways in Hubei Province as well as 5 in Tianjin City. The U.S. Embassy in China has a website with real-time air pollution levels, using the internationally standard Air Quality Index (AQI).

Air pollution causing lung cancer

Recently, the International Cancer Research Center, under the World Health Organization, released a report saying that in 2010, over 220,000 people worldwide died from lung cancer caused by air pollution, and air pollution has become the leading cause of cancer.

So how does air pollution cause cancer? Oncology director Zhang Shuyi, from Beijing Chest Hospital, explained: “For example, PM2.5, are very small particles depositing in the depths of the lungs and leading carcinogens into the body. Meanwhile, carcinogens follow the blood stream and impact organs, causing mutations to occur.”

Hao Xishan, a researcher at Chinese Academy of Engineering, provided data at the 22nd Asia-Pacific Cancer Conference, showing that at the present, China’s new cancer patients account for more than 20 percent of the annual increase of cancer patients in the world. Lung cancer, closely related to air pollution, is the number one killer in China.

Obviously, these three pieces of news show a clear relationship: the first shows the severity of the current air pollution, the second confirms the threat of air pollution on human health and life, and the third indicates the seriousness of the news and the consequences arising from a threat.

In fact, today’s China doesn’t just have polluted air. The whole environment is contaminated. The culprit is the 30 years of devastating damage to the ecology under the name of the so-called high-growth miracle.

Jumping ship, a large number of officials are transferring their ill-gotten wealth to foreign countries and preparing for the worst. Not only have the people been left out of a share in the wealth, but they’re also directly suffering as a result of the growth miracle, with no way to escape continued health degradation—one of them being widespread cancer.

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