by Yudong Qian
In Dr. Zhang’s lecture, he introduced the history of global air pollution in developed countries and offered solutions for the air pollution burden developing countries are suffering right now. The insight he has put into this global burden is inspiring and evokes some of my own experiences and thoughts.
When you talk about air pollution, what do you think of first? Will you come up with the picture of cities with endless obscure smog and people wearing masks? Or will you think of the related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), acute lower respiratory illness (ALRI), cerebrovascular disease (CEV), ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and lung cancer (Lelieveld, 2015)? Not surprisingly, these phenomenon and diseases are really happening in the world everyday. One week ago, the number of PM2.5 in Shenyang - a city in Northern China - broke the threshold and reached to 1400mg/m3, which resulted in the overload of patients in respiratory departments of the city hospitals. This February, a documentary called “Under the Dome” about the air pollution in China has drawn global attention. The documentary was filmed and self-financed by Chai Jing, a former China Central Television journalist, who said she felt dangerous for her kids to live in a city like Beijing with 175 days/year under pollutant air.
While China is suffering the unprecedented outdoor air pollution, people in Africa are under the exposure of indoor air pollutants. In Sudan, low respiratory infection is the top one risk factor for disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation,2010). Biomass fuel remains the primary energy supply and the indoor smoke caused by biomass burning is responsible for 2.7 percent of the global burden of disease (WHO, 2010). The distinction between China and Sudan reflects the relationship between economic development and air pollution: in middle-income economies, outdoor air pollution is the prevailing pattern while in low-income economies, indoor air pollution is the prevailing pattern.
Air pollution is no longer a new global issue, but why are the people in developing countries still suffering from it? Dr. Zhang explained this by using some examples of developed countries. The accidents happened in London and Los Angeles were the consequences of rapid industrialization. He then provided a formula for the solution in developing countries: Legislation + Technology + Enforcement == Clean Air. From this we can see the main factors preventing developing countries from getting access to clean air. To fix the air pollution problems, the first step is to enact environment protection law and enhance public dissemination. Next, for different countries there should be different strategies to tackle air pollution. From my experience, the biggest problem in China is the lack of enforcement to implement environmental protective regulations and green technologies. However, in Africa like Sudan, the imperative approach should be introducing environmental friendly fuels for the households.
1. Lelieveld, J., Evans, J. S., Fnais, M., Giannadaki, D., & Pozzer, A. (2015). The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale. Nature, 525(7569), 367-371.
2. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2010). GDB: Sudan. Retrieved from
sites/default/files/files/ country_profiles/GBD/ihme_gbd_ country_report_sudan.pdf
3. World Health Organization (2010). Sudan: WHO statistical profile. Retrieved from