Asia Minute: China Faces Air Pollution Challenges Indoors and Outside

Oct 2, 2016

Credit Global Panorama / Flickr

Air pollution in China is a familiar story. The focus is usually on the outdoors—centering on emissions from factories and the burning of fossil fuels. But according to a new survey, there’s also a growing problem indoors. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

A quarter of China’s children are at risk from indoor air pollution.  That’s according to figures published by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.  It’s part of the first national survey showing how many children are exposed to various kinds of pollution across the country—including unsafe drinking water and hazardous emissions from factories and vehicles.

The research covered more than 75,000 children and teenagers across 30 provinces.  Most of that indoor air pollution comes from burning coal—for heating and cooking.  The survey also found that 13% of children in China do not have access to clean drinking water—and 15% live within about 50 yards of a major road….subjecting them to air pollution from cars, trucks and buses.  The study did not draw any conclusions about specific medical issues related to that pollution exposure.

That’s a sensitive issue for official sources in China….much less so for external observers.  Just last week, the World Health Organization issued a scathing report on air quality—naming China as the country suffering the most deaths from outdoor air pollution.  The WHO says that around the world, about 3-million people a year die from exposure to outdoor air pollution.  More than a third of those people die in China.