An unexpected culprit is making China’s air pollution worse
By admin October 18, 2018

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Scientists have identified a new offender contributing to China’s wintertime smog, and controlling it could be the key to maintaining significant air improvements in air quality that many northeastern cities experienced last winter.

Emissions from formaldehyde, a byproduct from vehicles and chemical refineries has played a larger role than previously recognized in producing the thick, toxic pollution responsible for choking most of the country each winter.

Recent efforts to reduce the haze have been focused primarily on decreasing sulfur dioxide emissions. Though these efforts have demonstrated significant improvements in air quality, research suggests that there are still many more improvements to be made with respect to reducing emissions of formaldehyde in vehicles and industrial refining.

Easy fixes include improving ignition switches on cars and equipping nozzles at gas stations with rubber seals to prevent fumes from escaping into the atmosphere. More difficult to enforce measures include reducing emissions from chemical and oil refineries which are heavily concentrated in Tianjin about 120 km outside of Beijing.

Along with efforts to curb industrial coal burning, cuts in the output of refineries could clash with the government’s economic and political objectives, especially at a time when the trade war with the United States continues to threaten China’s growth.

The Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment issued its annual guidelines for 28 cities in the northeast in September and has somewhat eased requirements for new cuts in emissions. The ministry also lifted restrictions imposed last winter that forced many steel mills, coking plants, and factories to shut down for several months. This has led many to worry about the coming winter, which could see choking haze several times the safety levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

China’s pollution categorized by particulate matter of a size deemed especially harmful, has been the cause of close to one million premature deaths a year. Hydroxymethane sulfonate, formed by a chemical reaction between formaldehyde and sulfur dioxide, explains why extreme air pollution continues to persist despite efforts to cut sulfur emissions.

For continued reading:

An unexpected culprit is making China’s air pollution worse

A new culprit is identified in China’s choking smog

China lung cancer on rise, smog suspected – China Daily

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