…you can see the sun fruitlessly trying to penetrate the thick grey gauze shrouding the city. You can see forever, but it is smog, not the heavens, up there. Polluted Lungs An American physician in Guangzhou coughed several times during a conversation with me a couple of months ago. I asked him if he was alright and he replied that he lamented becoming a six pack a day smoker since coming to China. I had taken the bait, so he went on to say that it was not tobacco, but smog that was filling his lungs. It is true. I know more people with persistent respiratory complaints in Guangzhou than anywhere I have ever lived. This month I learned that three of my students, not yet 22, have been diagnosed with cancer. Two of them have leukemia and one has bone cancer: A horrific tri-fecta. At least, I want to believe that this is a fluke and not a dark harbinger of things to come. The cost of rapid industrialization is becoming frighteningly evident yet the amount of pollution flushed into China’s rivers and lakes is on the upswing despite governmental attempts to reign in factories with bad practices. According to an article in AFP: “China produced more than 12 billion tons of industrial waste-water in the first half of 2006, up 2.4 percent from the same period last year, the China Daily quoted a State Environment Protection Administration report as saying. A major index of water pollution called the chemical oxygen demand increased by 3.7 percent in the first six months, while emissions of sulphur dioxide rose 4.2 percent, the report said. Acid rain, which affects almost one-third of the nation, also remained unchecked, it said. The environment watchdog attributed the increased volume of pollution to the country’s booming industries, as the economy steamed ahead by 10.9 percent in the first half of the year. It said food-processing, paper-making and chemical plants accounted for more than 80 percent of the increase in the chemical oxygen demand level. The watchdog said only 30 to 40 percent of public industrial projects had undergone environmental evaluations before they went ahead, and criticized local governments for not implementing strict environment protection policies.” China may only wake up when it truly realizes the monetary value of its failed five-year plan for environmental improvement: ollution has resulted in economic losses of over 65 billion US Dollars–about three percent of its GDP. And the thousands of protests by people without insurance are sure to continue because cancer, as in my school and with the League of Extraordinary Women, seems not to be defying the odds as much as re-defining them. I don’t think anyone not in the field of oncology or caregiving is meant know so many people dead or dying from cancer. And I can’t seem to avoid it. Tim Johnson, over at the consistently good read China Rises, CR shares this picture with a personal note about the view from his office in Beijing: Beijing Smog

“When we first arrived here three years ago, my throat was scratchy for the first four or five months. Now, I think I’m used to it. It doesn’t bother me at all. Scary.”

by Lonnie Hodge

Be Sociable, Share!