An image depicting the heavy levels of smog in China. Photo by Fredrik Rubensson

Air pollution is a very real factor in today’s world, and countries around the world are starting to feel the impact. Even here in the ripe old U.S.A, the air quality difference between a farm in Utah and New York City is almost unreal. While in more isolated lands in America, a breath of air in the morning could actually be considered “fresh,” the more industrial cities of the country have constricting and even choking air. While many countries around the world are feeling this, none are feeling it quite as hard as China.

    The reason for this is, of course, the extreme industrialism that China now takes part in. Since you can’t go into nearly any store in America without seeing the three magic words, “made in China,” it is pretty clear just how much the massive country puts out in exports each year. However, this mass production does come with a cost. This cost comes not only in actual currency, but also in environmental and health risks. Ever since the first steam engine, industrialization has run on the flames, fuel and fumes of various materials, usually in the form of fossil fuels. These fuels are both effective and plentiful (for now, at least) and are the backbone to industry in any country, especially China. These fuels also come with a cost as well, expelling countless cubic pounds of potentially harmful gases into the atmosphere.

In recent years, these gases have come back to wreak havoc, creating a dense, almost poisonous cloud of “smog” that now hangs heavily over the industrial cities of China. This has caused various concerns of worker and resident health for quite some time now, and it seems that China is finally starting to take steps towards battling the smog. After large amounts of public criticism because of these conditions, Beijing (China’s capital) has vowed to try and shut down major polluters in the industrial sector like the cement, steel and power industries.

Another step being taken to improve emissions is the purchases of higher grade materials. They are, of course, more expensive, but are in turn a better choice when it comes to cleaner emissions. This could impact the actual mills of China, as they are now almost forced to shop for these higher quality raw materials. This may change China’s choice of importers for these materials as well, switching from cheaper sources such as Vietnam, Iran and Mexico, to the larger titans in the raw material scene such as Australia and Brazil.

New tests are on the scene that are on the lookout for additives within the imports of iron ore, such as arsenic and manganese, as well as the usual added sulfur. These additives are what create even more poisonous fumes when the iron is smelted into steel, and are the main difference between lower and higher grade iron.

Not only is higher grade iron now required, higher grade coal is as well, as Beijing follows through on its campaign to slim down its expansive steel sector. For a long time now, countries around the world have attempted to ignore the impending problem of environmental doomsday, and it seems it is finally catching up to even the biggest titans in the industry. The most important part of Beijing’s campaign to lower emissions is that there is even a campaign in the first place; China is such a large contributor to much of today’s industry, and is truly setting an example for the rest of the world, as it goes to such great lengths to improve the world’s environment.  

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