Life in a Toxic Country

The New York Times’ Edward Wong discusses the difficulties of raising a family amid China’s relentless pollution and food safety problems, especially milk contamination:

Before this assignment, I spent three and a half years reporting in Iraq, where foreign correspondents talked endlessly of the variety of ways in which one could die — car bombs, firefights, being abducted and then beheaded. I survived those threats, only now to find myself wondering: Is China doing irreparable harm to me and my family?

The environmental hazards here are legion, and the consequences might not manifest themselves for years or even decades. The risks are magnified for young children. Expatriate workers confronted with the decision of whether to live in Beijing weigh these factors, perhaps more than at any time in recent decades. But for now, a correspondent’s job in China is still rewarding, and so I am toughing it out a while longer. So is my wife, Tini, who has worked for more than a dozen years as a journalist in Asia and has studied Chinese. That means we are subjecting our 9-month-old daughter to the same risks that are striking fear into residents of cities across northern China, and grappling with the guilt of doing so. [Source]

The Wall Street Journal and Global Times (via CDT) have previously discussed air pollution from expats’ perspectives. Officials have also blamed the smog, together with struggling economies, for a 14.3% drop in tourism to Beijing in the first half of 2013. Other official statistics revealed this week that the capital’s air was rated as “good” less than half the time during this period. But the impact of air quality on visitors pales compared to its effects on Chinese, who reportedly suffered 1.2 million premature deaths from air pollution in 2010, and a cumulative loss of 2.5 billion years of life expectancy in northern China from winter heating coal emissions alone.


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