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Manufacturing, global trade impair health of people with no stake in either

Expert helps map migration of air pollution risk to regions far from factories

Date:
March 29, 2017
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
The latest products may bring joy to people around the globe, but academic researchers this week are highlighting the heightened health risks experienced by people in regions far downwind of the factories that produce these goods and on the other side of the world from where they're consumed. Scientists quantify and map the shift of environmental and health burdens brought on by globalization and international trade.
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The latest products may bring joy to people around the globe, but academic researchers this week are highlighting the heightened health risks experienced by people in regions far downwind of the factories that produce these goods and on the other side of the world from where they're consumed. In a study to be published Thursday, March 30, in the journal Nature, scientists quantify and map the shift of environmental and health burdens brought on by globalization and international trade.

"The way manufacturing and commerce are structured in the world today means that air pollution mortality is being felt disproportionately by people living in or near producing regions, often far from where goods are consumed," said paper co-author Steven Davis, associate professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine.

Focusing on the year 2007, the researchers found that of the 3.45 million premature deaths caused by fine-particulate-matter air pollution, about 12 percent were related to pollutants emitted in a different region of the world, and 22 percent were associated with goods produced in one region for consumption in another.

For example, nearly 31,000 deaths in Japan and South Korea were linked to emissions from China, and just over 47,000 deaths in Eastern Europe were related to pollution from factories in Western Europe. The study also found that 2,300 deaths in Western Europe were attributable to pollution transported through the atmosphere from the United States.

"Previous studies proved that air pollution can travel great distances and cause harm far from emitting factories," Davis said. "Our research shows that trade extends the distance between cause and effect by separating consumers in one region and people who suffer adverse health impacts, who are often on the other side of the world."

The study's authors note that China's exports cause the greatest number of premature deaths because of the high population density of that country and its neighbors, the quantity of its emissions, and its focus on manufacturing for export. And they estimate that in 2007 about 11 percent of Chinese deaths due to air pollution were tied to goods consumed in the United States and Western Europe, which import the most Chinese products.

"It costs less to manufacture goods in places like China and Southeast Asia, mostly because those places have cheaper labor than the West," Davis said. "But they also tend to have less stringent environmental protections and denser populations, so consumer savings, corporate profits and economic development based on trade are costing the lives of people who have to breathe polluted air."


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Qiang Zhang, Xujia Jiang, Dan Tong, Steven J. Davis, Hongyan Zhao, Guannan Geng, Tong Feng, Bo Zheng, Zifeng Lu, David G. Streets, Ruijing Ni, Michael Brauer, Aaron van Donkelaar, Randall V. Martin, Hong Huo, Zhu Liu, Da Pan, Haidong Kan, Yingying Yan, Jintai Lin, Kebin He, Dabo Guan. Transboundary health impacts of transported global air pollution and international trade. Nature, 2017; 543 (7647): 705 DOI: 10.1038/nature21712

Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Manufacturing, global trade impair health of people with no stake in either: Expert helps map migration of air pollution risk to regions far from factories." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 March 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170329145728.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2017, March 29). Manufacturing, global trade impair health of people with no stake in either: Expert helps map migration of air pollution risk to regions far from factories. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 25, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170329145728.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Manufacturing, global trade impair health of people with no stake in either: Expert helps map migration of air pollution risk to regions far from factories." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170329145728.htm (accessed May 25, 2017).

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