A Breath of Fresh Air: The True Cost


By Jared Gomberg

Chinese citizens as they line up for fresh air.
Chinese citizens as they line up for fresh air.

Now, we all know that the air quality in China is much less than desirable, but I’m not sure anyone expected this. China’s desperation for clean air was made apparent as large numbers of Chinese residents of Zhengzhou, the capital of the Henan province in China, lined up to get a dose of fresh mountain air– via sealed bags.

The heart-tugging photos of this event show not only how dirty China’s air is, but how much the people of China hate it. Photos depict Chinese people huffing in this fresh air as if it’s from Mount Olympus. Some photos show Chinese parents fixing their children’s Oxygen masks, letting their kids enjoy the rare fresh mountain air.

In China, about 500,000 people die from air pollution per year. That number is high and growing. China is becoming more industrial, and the middle class is growing. The Asian Brown Cloud is an enormous, thick brown cloud of sulfur, ozone, and several other pollutants that covers parts of China, India, Pakistan and several other South Asian countries.  This cloud of heavy smog also pollutes the rest of the world, including America, because it is blown by jet streams and winds to other parts of the world.

Not only do Chinese people need this fresh mountain air, but if the world was less polluted, even our sky in the United States would look different. Yes, even the sky here is a bit off color, which we don’t realize because we’re used to it looking as it does. Our air would feel much more fresh to breathe. Our planet would be clean.