Posts Tagged ‘respiratory problems’

Chlorine gas leak in Iran — more than 300 people suffered respiratory problems

August 13, 2017

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian state TV is reporting that more than 300 people suffered respiratory and other problems after a chlorine gas leakage in the country’s south.

The Sunday report says the victims have been taken to local hospitals in the city of Dezful, some 500 miles (805 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran. Thirty people were hospitalized and the rest were released.

The report said the gas leaked from reservoirs in an abandoned warehouse of the local water supply company.

Dezful, population 250,000, is located in oil-rich Khuzestan province.

Image result for Dezful, Iran, map

China Premier Pledges: ‘We Will Make Our Skies Blue Again’

March 5, 2017

BEIJING — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged Sunday to make the country’s smoggy skies blue again and “work faster” to address pollution caused by the burning of coal for heat and electricity.

His words to delegates at the opening of the annual National People’s Congress highlight how public discontent has made reducing smog, the most visible of China’s environment problems, a priority for the leadership. The 10-day event got underway under a sunny blue sky, thanks to heavy gusts from the north that cleared away the unhealthy gray from the day before.

Protests have increasingly broken out in cities where residents oppose the building of chemical plants and garbage incinerators, as China’s middle class grows increasingly vocal in awareness of the dangers of pollution.

In a report to China’s ceremonial legislature, Li said that “people are desperately hoping for” faster progress to improve air quality. “We will make our skies blue again,” he declared to almost 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People.

He said the government intends over the next year to step up work to upgrade coal-fired power plants to achieve ultra-low emissions and energy conservation, and prioritize the integration of renewable energy sources into the electricity grid.

Integration problems have arisen because China has added wind and solar power at a faster rate than the grid has expanded. That capacity is then wasted when grid operators choose to use traditional energy sources, including coal, over renewables.

Despite China’s lingering dependence on coal plants, its consumption of the energy source fell in 2016 for a third year in a row. Coal now makes up 62 percent of China’s total energy consumption mix.

Building on publicly available real-time and hourly readings from coal plants and other factories, Li said: “All key sources of industrial pollution will be placed under round-the-clock online monitoring.”

Environmental groups welcome the disclosure of such data because it allows the public to directly supervise the emissions of plants in their areas.

Lauri Myllyvirta, senior coal campaigner for Greenpeace, said they had expected the government to announce a speeding up of measures because air pollution is supposed to hit targets this year that were laid down in 2013. They include a 25-percent reduction in the density of fine particulate matter — a gauge of air pollution — in Beijing and the surrounding region from 2012 levels.

“It will require very dramatic steps to achieve those targets for this year,” Myllyvirta said.

Li also said the government would ramp up efforts to deal with vehicle emissions by working faster to take old vehicles off the roads and encourage the use of clean-energy cars.

Environmental laws and regulations would be strictly enforced and officials who failed to do so would be held “fully accountable,” he said, without giving details. Local officials have often been lax at enforcing regulations on companies that contribute to economic growth in their areas.

Li said that this year sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions — gasses produced by burning fossil fuels that can cause respiratory problems — would both be cut by 3 percent, and the density of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 would fall “markedly” in key areas.

Official data show an improvement in China’s air quality since 2013, when the government brought out its air pollution action plan. However, cities including Beijing still regularly register levels of pollution several times higher than the recommended safe limit, prompting residents to resort to masks, air filters and apps to monitor air quality.

Asia: Smoke and Haze from Indonesia Now Creeps Over Thailand — Health Emergency

October 6, 2015

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Smoke haze in Trang, Thailand on Tuesday (photo by Methee Muangkaew)

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Bangkok Post

Smoke haze from forest fires on Sumatra island, in Indonesia, covered seven southern provinces on Tuesday, with residents crowding hospitals and complaining of respiratory problems, the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department stated.

Chatchai Phromlert, director-general of the department, said that haze blanketed Narathiwat, Pattani, Phuket, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani and Yala provinces.

The levels of particulate matter there ranged between 58 and 162 microgrammes per cubic metre of air measured in 24 hours. The safe level is within 120 microgrammes per cu/m.

Smoke haze reached health hazardous levels in four of the provinces — Pattani (121 microgrammes), Phuket (134 microgrammes), Satun (141 microgrammes) and Songkhla (162 microgrammes).

The weather condition not only affected public health but also reduced visibility, especially on roads, Mr Chatchai said.

Local authorities were handing out face masks and people were seeking treatment for breathing problems at local hospitals.

In Yala, the number of patients reporting respiratory at Yala Hospital rose to 214 cases on Monday, up from only 64 on Sunday.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/720160/smoke-haze-hazardous-in-four-southern-provinces

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The Associated Press

Malaysia has shut most schools for two days to protect children from a thick, noxious haze caused by burning forests in neighbouring Indonesia.

The haze, which has shrouded parts of Malaysia and Singapore for about a month, also spread to Thailand on Monday, the first time it has reached so far north.

The air pollutant index hit the hazardous level in Shah Alam, the capital of Malaysia’s central Selangor state, and was very unhealthy in many other areas.

Malaysia's landmark building, Petronas Twin Towers, center, and other commercial buildings stand shrouded with haze in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Malaysia’s landmark building, Petronas Twin Towers, center, and other commercial buildings stand shrouded with haze in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (AAP)

That prompted authorities to order the closure of 7,000 schools on Monday and Tuesday, even though the situation eased early on Monday.

The Air Pollutant Index in Shah Alam dropped to 95, from 308 early on Sunday.

A reading of below 50 is good, 51-100 is moderate, 101-200 is unhealthy, 201-300 is very unhealthy and above 300 is hazardous.

However, 11 areas, mostly in northern states, were in the unhealthy range, with a station in Penang island recording the worst level of 164.

Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi said Indonesia’s efforts to

crack down on the sources of open burning by farmers were not enough.

The forest fires that cause the haze have been an annual occurrence since the late 1990s.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced stricter punishment for those engaged in open burning, but said his government would need three years to solve the problem.

Malaysia’s national news agency, Bernama, quoted Zahid as saying that Malaysia welcomes the measures announced by Widodo, but that “three years is too long.”

“We hope its commitment is not only on paper or mere statements pleasant to the ears, but through implementation which could end all haze problems,” Zahid said.

China Can Give A Career Boost — But With Health Risks

April 30, 2013

Smog covers Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Jan. 30, 2013. (Atsushi Okudera)

By LOUISE WATT | Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Whitney Foard Small loved China and her job as a regional director of communications for a top automaker. But after air pollution led to several stays in hospital and finally a written warning from her doctor telling her she needed to leave, Small packed up and left for Thailand.

In doing so, the Ford Motor Co. executive became another expatriate to leave China because of the country’s notoriously bad air. Other top executives whose careers would be boosted by a stint in the world’s second-largest economy and most populous consumer market are put off when considering the move.

There is no official data on the numbers leaving because of pollution, but executive recruitment companies say it is becoming harder to attract top talent to China — both expats and Chinese nationals educated abroad. The European Chamber of Commerce in China says foreign managers leave for many different reasons but pollution is almost always cited as one of the factors and is becoming a larger concern.

If the polluted skies continue, companies may have to fork out more for salaries or settle for less qualified candidates. Failure to attract the best talent to crucial roles could result in missed commercial opportunities and other missteps.

Poor air quality has also added to the complaints that foreign companies have about operating in China. Even though China’s commercial potential remains vast, groups representing foreign companies say doing business is getting tougher due to slowing though still robust economic growth, strict Internet censorship, limits on market access and intellectual property theft.

China’s rapid economic development over the last three decades has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty but also ravaged the environment as heavy industry burgeoned, electricity demand soared and car ownership became a badge of status for the newly affluent in big cities. Health risks from pollution of air, water and soil have become a source of discontent with Communist Party rule among ordinary Chinese.

Foreigners regularly check the air quality readings put out by the U.S. Embassy and consulates on their Twitter feeds when deciding whether to go out for a run or let their children play outside.

The pollution has become even more of a hot topic since January, when the readings in Beijing went off the scale and beyond what is considered hazardous by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. On the worst days, skyscrapers disappeared into the capital’s murky skyline and masks multiplied on the streets and sold out at convenience stores. At the same time, China’s state media gave unprecedented coverage to the pollution following months of growing pressure from a Chinese middle class that has become more vocal about the quality of its air.

“January was probably the worst,” said Australian Andrew Moffatt, who worked for nine months in Beijing as regional manager for a chain of language schools before the pollution pushed him to return to Brisbane in March with his wife and 5-year-old son.

“Back in November I had been sick and then we went on holiday to the beach in Hainan and it just reminded me of Australia and I just thought we could be breathing this quality air every single day rather than polluted air in Beijing,” he said.

And it’s not only Beijing where the air pollution is driving expats away.

Ford transferred its regional headquarters from Bangkok to Shanghai in 2009. Four months after the move, Small, the director of communications, had her first major asthma attack.

“I had never had asthma in my life, never ever had asthma before China,” said Small, who quit the country in May last year. Her asthma was exacerbated by an allergy to coal, which is the source of about 70 percent of China’s energy. Her allergy was first identified in 2005 after a six-week assignment in Beijing ended with her being hospitalized for three days in Hong Kong with her lung function at about 30 percent.

In Shanghai, the asthma resurfaced. “Three hospitalizations later, my doctor said it was time to call it quits,” she said.

Her frequent treatments — involving inhalers, steroids and a nebulizer in the mornings and evenings to get medication deep into her lungs — meant the medication became less effective.

“I actually got a written warning from my pulmonary doctor and it said you need to reconsider for your life’s sake what you’re doing and so that was it. I didn’t really have a choice, my doctor made it for me.”

Ivo Hahn, the CEO of the China office of executive search consultants Stanton Chase, said that in the last six months, air pollution has become an issue for candidates they approach.

“It pops up increasingly that people say ‘well we don’t want to move to Beijing’ or ‘I can’t convince my family to move to Beijing’,” he said. Two expats, one Western and one an overseas Chinese, recently turned down general manager and managing director positions because of the air pollution, he said.

Hahn thinks this trend will only strengthen over the next one or two years because the highest-level executives generally “are not working primarily for their survival.”

“They normally get a decent pay, they are generally reasonably well taken care of, so the quality of life actually it does matter, particularly when they have children,” he said.

 Smoking chimneys and the cooling tower of a coal-burning plant stand next to electric pylons on a hazy day in Wuhan, Hubei province, Dec. 6, 2012. China will spend 350 billion yuan ($56 billion) by 2015 to curb air pollution in major cities. (Reuters)

Some, however, say that China has become too important economically for up-and-coming corporate executives to ignore. It generates a large and growing share of profits for global companies while still offering a vast untapped potential. Its auto industry, now the world’s largest by number of vehicles sold, is expected to outstrip the U.S. and Europe combined by 2020 as car ownership rises from a low level of 50 vehicles per 1,000 people.

“It’s increasingly important for people who want to have careers as managers in multinational companies to have international experience and as part of their career path, and in terms of international experience, China is one of the most desirable places because of the size of the market and growth and dynamism of the market,” said Christian Murck, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

Carl Hopkins, Asia managing partner of legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, said Chinese nationals who had studied abroad at top universities or business schools were reluctant to return unless they had elderly family to take care of.

“There is an unwillingness for these people to return to China because they have got a better standard of living in the States or somewhere else than going to Beijing and Shanghai with its current issues with pollution,” Hopkins said, adding that this had become more prevalent over the last year.

Hahn said the effects of expats refusing to relocate to China aren’t going to be felt overnight, but eventually “either companies will have to pay a higher price overall because maybe candidates may have to commute as an example, or they may lower their standards or they may offer the position to somebody who may actually not be quite as qualified.”

If the current trend hardens, it would have some economic impact, said Alistair Thornton, senior China economist at IHS in Beijing.

“Expats contribute almost nothing to China’s growth because the numbers are just tiny, but intangibly they contribute quite a significant amount” by introducing foreign technology, best practices and Western management techniques “that Chinese companies are harnessing and using to drive growth,” said Thornton.

He is leaving Beijing in June with air pollution one factor.

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China Says: Development Should Not Conflict With Environment

January 17, 2013

Almost all reports on smoggy air in China recently arrive at a basic judgment that China’s environmental capacity is becoming weaker and weaker and the influence of environmental pollution on people’s lives and health has reached an unbearable level. This is a big problem that deserves attention from the government, says an article in China Business News. Excerpts:

The Chinese people have suddenly realized that the distant images of London as a city of fog are not actually that far from their own lives.

Beijing was recently choked in dense smog for three consecutive days, Beijing (Xinhua)

There are three definite points to be made here. First, the pollution has come about with China’s development. Second, it takes time to address the problem with systematic solutions. Third, Chinese should be confident with the objective of building a beautiful China.

China has experienced huge environmental costs to become the world’s second largest economy. China has now come to a bottleneck in its development and has to transform its economic growth model. If not, all previous achievements may be wasted and the previous development will become meaningless.

China Daily Website

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang stressed the government must do something to handle the air pollution. But people should be prepared for the fact that it takes longer to clean the air than pollute it.

China must pay attention to balanced development and take environmental costs into consideration while evaluating its economic growth and local government officials’ performance.

Development, if sustainable, does not conflict with the environment. If China finds the two conflict with each other, it should transform its development but not sacrifice the environment for development.

News about China and the Environment (Reuters)

By Edward Wong
The New York Times

BEIJING — The Chinese state news media on Monday published aggressive reports on what they described as the sickening and dangerous air pollution in Beijing and other parts of northern China, indicating that popular anger over air quality had reached a level where Communist Party propaganda officials felt that they had to allow the officially sanctioned press to address the growing concerns of ordinary citizens.

The across-the-board coverage of Beijing’s brown, soupy air, which has been consistently rated “hazardous” or even worse by foreign and local monitors since last week, was the most open in recent memory. Since 2008, when Beijing made efforts to clean up the city before the Summer Olympics, the air has appeared to degrade in the view of many residents, though the official news media have often avoided addressing the problem.

The wide coverage on Monday appears to be in part a reaction to the conversation that has been unfolding on Chinese microblogs, where residents of northern China have been discussing the pollution nonstop in recent days.

The problem is so serious — the worst air quality since the United States Embassy began recording levels in 2008 — that hospitals reported on Monday a surge in patient admissions for respiratory problems. Beijing officials ordered government cars off the road to try to curb the pollution, which some people say has been exacerbated by a weather phenomenon, called an inversion, that is trapping dirty particles.

“I’ve never seen such broad Chinese media coverage of air pollution,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, a business consultant in Beijing who tracks the Chinese news media. “From People’s Daily to China Central Television, the story is being covered thoroughly, without trying to put a positive spin on it.”

People’s Daily, the official party mouthpiece, published a front-page signed editorial on Monday under the headline “Beautiful China Starts With Healthy Breathing.” “The seemingly never-ending haze and fog may blur our vision,” it said, “but makes us see extra clearly the urgency of pollution control and the urgency of the theory of building a socialist ecological civilization, revealed at the 18th Party Congress.”

The 18th Party Congress, a meeting of party elites held in Beijing last November, was part of a once-a-decade leadership transition. In a political report delivered on the first day, Hu Jintao, the president and departing party chief, said China must address environmental problems worsened by rapid development. The inclusion of sections in the report on the need for “ecological progress” could be opening the door for greater dialogue on such issues under the watch of Xi Jinping, the new party chief, and his colleagues on the Politburo Standing Committee.

Even before the congress, the official news media had some latitude to publish critiques of environmental policy and investigate environmental degradation, in contrast to strict limits on what they can say on “core interest” issues like Tibet and Taiwan. Nevertheless, the coverage unfolding now represents a new level of depth in addressing air pollution.

Bill Bishop, the editor of Sinocism, a daily online newsletter about news media coverage of China, wrote on Monday that “Chinese media is all over the story in a remarkably transparent contrast to today’s haze in Beijing.”

Mr. Bishop, who is also a columnist for the DealBook blog of The New York Times, wrote: “Clearly it is impossible to pretend that the air is not polluted or that the health risks are not significant, so are the propaganda authorities just recognizing reality in allowing coverage? Or is there something more going on here, as perhaps the new government wants to both demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accountability as well as use this crisis to further the difficult reforms toward a more sustainable development model?”

China Youth Daily, a state-run newspaper, published a scathing signed commentary on Monday under the headline “Lack of Responsive Actions More Choking Than the Haze and Fog.” The commentary questioned basic economic policies and the China growth model: “This choking, dirty and poisonous air forces the Chinese to rethink the widespread, messy development model.”

A worker in Hefei, China, on Monday. Hospitals on Monday reported a surge in patient admissions for respiratory problems.   Jianan Yu/Reuters

Global Times, a newspaper that often defends the party, said in an editorial that the government in the past had erred by releasing pollution information in a “low-key way.” It said: “In the future, the government should publish truthful environmental data to the public. Let society participate in the process of solving the problem.”

On Saturday, when a Twitter feed from the United States Embassy rated the air in central Beijing an astounding 755 on an air quality scale of 0 to 500, China Central Television, the main state network, devoted a large part of its 7 p.m. newscast to the pollution. That night, the Beijing government reported alarming levels of a potentially deadly particulate matter called PM 2.5; in some districts, it exceeded 900 micrograms per cubic meter, on par with some days of the killer smog in London in the mid-20th century.

Under pressure from the existence of the embassy monitor and growing anger among prominent Chinese Internet users, Chinese officials have been releasing more data on PM 2.5 levels, in a sign of creeping transparency. Beijing began reporting PM 2.5 levels in January 2012. Xinhua, the state-run news agency, announced late last year that the Ministry of Environmental Protection had required 74 cities to start releasing PM 2.5 data. For years, Chinese officials had been trying to limit public information to data on PM 10 or other pollutants that are generally considered less deadly than PM 2.5, which is invisible and can lodge deep in the lungs.

“Last year, Chinese media began to report with regularity on air pollution, especially in Beijing and concerning PM 2.5 in particular,” Mr. Goldkorn said. “But the apocalyptic skies above the capital this last weekend seemed to have encouraged an even greater enthusiasm for reporting this story.”

Mia Li contributed research.