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Do Asian Coal Plants Pollute North America? As BC ships more coal across Pacific, US researchers find transcontinental air poll

Joined: Jul 6 2008



Joined: Jul 6 2008

Of big importance especially to BCers.

Do Asian Coal Plants Pollute North America?

As BC ships more coal across Pacific, US researchers find transcontinental air pollution.

When we consider coal export plans, we would do well to consider the risk that byproducts of the coal may return to haunt us. In fact, there is a growing body of scientific research examining the ways that smokestack emissions cross oceans to cause pollution problems halfway around the world.

In March, for example, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released shocking research findings: Several recent studies have shown that powerful spring winds can carry Asian pollution into the atmosphere above North America... some of the imported pollution can descend to the surface, where it affects ground-level ozone, a regulated pollutant. At high concentrations, ground-level ozone can cause severe respiratory effects in some people, and it damages crops, trees, and other vegetation.

"We showed that Asian pollution directly contributes to surface ozone pollution episodes in parts of the western United States," said Meiyun Lin, Ph.D, lead author of the new study.

In other words, some of the air pollution problems in North America result from the pollution emitted by Asian coal plants and industrial facilities.


NOAA's findings were not entirely new, however.

The Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution has found that as much as a quarter of ground level ozone pollution in the northern mid-latitudes arrives from the stratosphere. Downwind of eastern Asia (i.e. in North America), researchers have clearly documented that marine air can import ozone concentrations that exceed air quality standards. Scientists there have also shown that soot, dust, and mercury can travel from one continent to another.

There's a northwest dimension to the intercontinental pollution story too. As the Seattle-based think tank Sightline has pointed out, sulfur compounds, soot, and other byproducts of Asian coal combustion are detectable on mountaintops in the western United States. Researchers have also linked ozone in the air above the United States to pollution from developing Asian countries that are burning fossil fuels.

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