Shenyang – a city in north-eastern China – has a 50 times higher air pollution than that considered safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO), because of the thick smog that hovers over the city. Everyone who lives in the city is at risk.
The industrial cities in China have had high levels of fine particulate material for some time now. Researchers call it ‘PM2.5 pollution’. Coal-burning power plants, vehicle exhaust, as well as other sources are responsible for this type of pollution.
According to the World Health Organisation, a person should be exposed to a maximum amount of 25 micrograms of fine particulate pollution per cubic meter of air over the course of 24 hours. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Chinese government agencies say that the maximum amount should be 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air (so a little bit higher than what WHO recommends).
However, the levels of fine particulate pollution in Shenyang reached 1,400 micrograms per cubic meter of air over the weekend.
Dr. Norman Edelman, a senior consultant for scientific affairs with the American Lung Association said that the amount of fine particulate pollution in Shenyang is ridiculously high.
The particles of fine particulate matter are so small that they can bypass the defence system of the human body. They then get deep into the lungs and can sometimes even enter the bloodstream, which is why this type of pollution is extremely dangerous, Edelman said.
Breathing in these superfine particles can lead to lung disease and heart disease. People who suffer from asthma are the most prone to experience the negative effects of air pollution.
Researchers suggest that the link between air pollution and heart disease may be that pollution increases inflammation in the body, which triggers different processes that may eventually cause a stroke or heart attack, Dr. Edelman explained.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air pollution in Shenyang affects everyone, not only those who already have respiratory conditions or heart disease. Some side effects that may occur are headaches, nausea, skin rashes, and coughing, the EPA stated.
Both Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy at the American Lung Association and Edelman said that when the levels of air pollution are so high, surgical masks cannot fully protect people.
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