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Effects of Pollution in China

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 1603 words Published: 19th Oct 2021

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This paper will be an inquiry into how China’s extreme air pollution has resulted in devastating respiratory complications within the population and the lack of support being provided to them. Major issues that will be discussed include; the pollutant related illnesses and how they are affecting the citizens, the causes of pollution and how these have gotten more attention than the suffering population, the decreasing life expectancy of the population and how it will affect the population in the future. China has demonstrated its intent to improve its air quality and has been successful in reducing some of the pollutions but have failed to give their citizens the same attention. As a result, China has been recognized for the efforts in joining the fight against population, but their population has been left to suffer silently with little recognition from studies and reports regarding their own hardships.

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With a population of over one billion, China has become one of the biggest and most influential countries in the world. China has become known as a leader in the manufacturing industry, creating great economic wealth for the country (Galli et al., 2012, pp. 99-107). This immense growth has contributed to major air pollution issues for the country. As the economy grew in China the population soared, resulting in an increase in the number of vehicles on the road, the output from manufacturing and ultimately increased the countries carbon footprint (Galli et al., 2012, pp. 99-107). With a growing population, China required an ever-increasing amount of resources to sustain the countries energy consumption.

Through the excessive burning of coal and overuse of resources, China developed a major pollution problem as it became one of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions (Chen, Ebenstein, Greenstone, & Li, 2013). This revelation was a major concern for scientists and scholars. The research brought attention to the major effects these excessive emissions will have on the atmosphere and the rest of the world. Although this was of great concern, the population of China was overlooked. The pollution was damaging the health of China’s population and causing significant respiratory illnesses (Chen, Ebenstein, Greenstone, & Li, 2013). Chinas life expectancy has been slowly declining as lung diseases have consumed the entirety population (Chen, Ebenstein, Greenstone, & Li, 2013). Although scholars have noted the causes of pollution in china, they have not highlighted the long-term health ramifications that the pollutants will have on the population.

Initially, the causes of pollution are always the most studied and discussed issues of climate change because once a cause is discovered a solution can be planned. Chinas excessive coal burning is one of the worst contributors to the country’s declining air quality.  A major culprit of the misuse of coal was the Huai River policy which was initialized in order to provide free coal for heating homes and offices of the citizens of northern China (Chen, Ebenstein, Greenstone, & Li, 2013). A study published by the National Academy of Science concluded that the policy contributed greatly to the declining air quality by increasing the amount of total suspended particles being released (Chen, Ebenstein, Greenstone, & Li, 2013). This sudden spike in energy consumption and total suspended particles caused China to be known as one of the biggest contributors to global warming, with their excessive output of carbon dioxide emissions (Galli et al., 2012). These types of reports have created a need to act against the causes of these pollutants including removing all coal burring heaters from homes and businesses and reducing coal mining (Greenstone, 2018). Chinas efforts resulted in the amount of total suspended air particles being reduced by 32 percent in 2018 (Greenstone, 2018). Although china’s efforts to reduce air pollution have been recognized, they have not done enough with regards to combating the crippling health effects that have plagued Chinas population due to the pollution causing such poor air quality.

To continue, the causes of China’s pollution have been broadcasted in the spot-light while the citizens suffering from the effects of the polluted air are not given the same amount of attention and support. A primary example would be how the citizens were treated after coal burners were removed in Northern China. Although this action did become a contributing factor in the reduction of the overall air pollutants, this decision resulted in many citizens being left on their own to get through the cold winter because they were not given a form of replacement heating (Greenstone, 2018). In addition to harming the environment, these coal burners had detrimental effects on the citizen’s respiratory health, especially in Northern China where the heaters were initially implemented (Chen, Ebenstein, Greenstone, & Li, 2013). Cardiorespiratory mortality became increasingly common while the coal burners were in full use due to the toxic amounts of total suspended particles polluting not only the air but the citizen’s lungs as well (Chen, Ebenstein, Greenstone, & Li, 2013). Zhu Rongi the premier working in Shanghai in 1999 at the time stated, “If I work in your Beijing, I would shorten my life at least five years” (Chen, Ebenstein, Greenstone, & Li, 2013). He was correct in saying this as It is estimated that at that time citizen life expectancy could be cut up to five years and newborns were given even less of a chance, only having an estimated three years of life  (Chen, Ebenstein, Greenstone, & Li, 2013). This clearly displays the efforts China has gone to, discovering more ways to reduce the causes of their air pollution while disregarding how it affects the population’s health and well being.  

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As a result of this disregard, Chinese citizens are now suffering long term health consequences affecting the population with little support or recognition of their hardships. Children are most at risk of shortened life spans due to the polluted air (Jiang et al., 2018). Expecting mothers exposed to the high levels of air pollution are at risk of losing their baby as the pollutants cause a higher risk of miscarriage and premature birth (Qin, 2019).  Nature Sustainability published a study that concluded that up to 15 percent of pregnancies result in a miscarriage during the first few months due to the abundant exposer to pollutants (Qin, 2019). Children born in these situations with continuous exposer to toxins since their prenatal period leads to childhood suffering from pneumonia and other respiratory difficulties that follow them through life as the exposer to pollution ceases to end (Jiang et al., 2018). This poses a threat to the health of the population as some parents continue living longer than their children in the worst polluted areas of China. Although the issue of pollution is a priority the citizens will need to receive the same attention if they are expected to recover along with the air quality.

To conclude, China has inadequately supported the citizens suffering from the consequences of their poor air quality instead of focusing on the causes of their pollution and ignoring the effects. While the efforts to reduce pollution have been successful the air quality in many parts of China is still far below standards necessary for the health of the citizens. Citizens are suffering and will continue for generations as the nation continues to neglect the major raspatory issues that are plaguing the country while they narrow their focuses completely on the economic strength of the country.


  • Chen, Y., Ebenstein, A., Greenstone, M., & Li, H. (n.d.). Evidence on the impact of sustained exposure to air pollution on life expectancy from China's Huai River policy. In W. C. Clark (Ed.), PNAS. Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/content/110/32/12936 (Reprinted from Proceedings of the national academy of sciences of the united states of America, 2013)
  • Davenport, C. (2018, October 7). Major climate report describes a strong risk of crisis as early as 2040. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html
  • Galli, A., Kitzes, J., Niccolucci, V., Wackernagel, M., Wadad, Y., & Marchettinic, N. (2012). Assessing the global environmental consequences of economic growth through the Ecological Footprint: A focus on China and India. Ecological Indicators, 17, 99-107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.04.022
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  • Greenstone, M. (2018, March 12). Four Years After Declaring War on Pollution, China Is Winning. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/12/upshot/china-pollution-environment-longer-lives.html
  • Jiang, W., Lu, C., Miao, Y., Xiang, Y., Chen, L., & Deng, Q. (2018). Outdoor particulate air pollution and indoor renovation associated with childhood pneumonia in China. Atmospheric Environment, 174, 76-81. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S135223101730804X
  • Qin, A. (2019, October 14). Air Pollution Is Linked to Miscarriages in China, Study Finds. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/14/world/asia/china-air-pollution-miscarriages-study.html


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