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Tracking Asian air pollution aids policymakers
Date:1/31/2014

Recently, Beijing and the nearby Chinese provinces were veiled in smog that reduced visibility, induced health problems, and reached levels described as "beyond index."

Last week, a team of scientists, which included Argonne's David Streets, a senior energy and environmental policy scientist, published research showing that several different air pollutants from China reach the shores of the western United States. The Chinese-led international research team found that the export of air pollution is tied directly to China's production of consumer goods for export to the United States, creating a complex web of economic and environmental problems.

Although China received most of the media spotlight, other countries also add increasing amounts of pollution into the atmosphere.

Late last year, Argonne researcher Zifeng Lu, Streets, and scientists from Saint Louis University and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center analyzed satellite data of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in India, which recently brought online many coal-fired plants. The researchers found a steady increase of SO2 emissions across India, in contrast to Indian government reports implying that the rates had been declining. The newly discovered increase of 60 percent from 2005 to 2012 shifted India into the No. 2 slot of biggest emitter of SO2, after China, as the U.S. dropped into the No. 3 spot. Without the analysis of satellite data, the increase might have continued to escape notice. The Indian government used ground-based pollution monitors located near cities rather than close to plants. Their most recent published data was also from 2008.

"Scientific research like this, using advanced technological instrumentation, provides a sound basis for designing more effective environmental control policies," Streets said. For example, in India, all newly constructed coal-fired plants have been required to reserve floor space for air pollution mitigation technology, althoug
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Contact: Jared Sagoff
jsagoff@anl.gov
630-252-5549
DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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