Great, as if we needed more reasons to worry about the air quality in China (see other reasons here, here, and here.) Greenpeace has announced in their report The True Cost of Coal – Coal Dust Storms: Toxic Wind that sandstorms, which are bad for your health already, are actually full of poisonous coal dust carrying arsenic, selenium, and lead. From Greenpeace:
“Sandstorms can actually be called ‘coal dust storms’,” said Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Dr. Sun Qingwei. “Coal ash is a very tiny and light particle, easily picked up by wind. Winds traveling at 8 meters per second can already disperse coal ash up to 150,000 square kilometers from their origins in open-air dumping sites. And winds in a sandstorm are even stronger, with speeds of at least 25 meters per second – thus they can spread coal ash much farther. This means that even people who live far from thermal power plants in eastern and southern China must face the threat of coal pollution at their doorstep.”
That means you, Shanghai. Remember that dust storm that reached us back in 2007? A Fudan University professor tracking air quality measured arsenic levels at 53 times the normal levels.
Frustratingly enough, it’s actually Chinese coal ash disposal practices, not just the burning itself, that results in our winds picking up so many toxic chemicals. For every four tons of coal burned, one ton of ash is produced and must be put somewhere. Lacking proper measures, coal power plants often just dump it in open-air disposal sites, which commonly lie directly in the pathway of potential sandstorms.
Let us give thanks for, uh, Shanghai’s terrible air quality
Shanghai sure is dusty… what can we do about it?
China pollution: You think that’s air you’re breathing?
Shanghai air quality now sucks even harder