China's air pollution could reach US

The air pollution plaguing China may blow east to Korea and Japan, and could even reach the United States, The New York Times reports.

Scientists say the soot, ozone-forming compounds and other pollutants from China are raising concerns in countries that are in the path of the plumes.


New research reveals that China contributes on average to Japan's annual fin-particle pollution between 40 percent to 60 percent depending on the city in question. And 10 percent to 20 percent of Japan's springtime ozone depletion comes from China's emissions.

“The countries most directly affected by air pollution from China are its nearest neighbors,” Paul Harris, the chair professor of global and environmental studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said in an email. “As with every other aspect of relations with China, there is a limit to what they can do about it.”

The particles that do make it to the U.S. must be carried by wind-propelled dust storms. It takes pollutants roughly four or five days to cross the Pacific Ocean, said Dan Jaffe, a professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry at the University of Washington-Bothell.

“People living at higher elevations are definitely getting greater exposure” to pollutants coming from Asia, Jaffe said of the exposure to the nation's West Coast.

Still, scientists say China's contributions to U.S. pollution is small compared to domestic sources.