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China's Pollution Problem

Pollution engulfs Beijing with heavy haze and reduced visibility. Photo by Global Voices author Owen.

Pollution engulfs Beijing with heavy haze and reduced visibility. Photo by Global Voices author Owen.

China's obsessive push for economic growth in recent decades has taken a terrible toll on the country's environment.

Heavy smog plagues many of China's metropolitan areas. Mining and chemical waste contaminate the soil, which in turn contaminates the food that grows in it. Industrial runoff pollutes water sources, making it unsafe to drink. Seven of the world's ten most polluted cities in the world are now in China, according to the World Health Organization.

The consequences in China are deadly. A study by the Health Effects Institute and several other partner organizations, including the World Health Organization, found that 1.2 million premature deaths in China were linked to air pollution in 2010 alone. Cancer rates are skyrocketing with six patients are diagnosed with cancer every minute, a public health crisis many attribute to the country's rampant pollution.

The ruling communist party has been reluctant to sacrifice development in order to tackle the widespread pollution. But as the condition of the environment has deteriorated, so has the public's patience. The country has seen a rash of demonstrations of angry residents protesting development projects that could pollute the area in the past few years.

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