Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 32 n° 312

In China’s Industrial Centers, Lung Disease and Hard Choices

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 5 novembre 2018

ON ANY GIVEN day at the First Hospital of Hebei Medical University in Shijiazhuang, an industrial city roughly 200 miles south of Beijing in northwestern China, a wall of ailing patients can be found tethered to breathing machines. In many cases, they are there after years of smoking. But when asked, most will also recall decades of breathing other noxious stuff: thick smog, combustion dust, and other contaminants churned into the air by the region’s vast panorama of industry.Liu Wenzhi, a grocer who now suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, recalled clouds of fine white powder from nearby ceramic and cement factories. They swirled constantly above his vegetable stand in Handan, he said, and he tried not to look up at the sky, to avoid getting dust in his eyes and his mouth. Li Baozhi, a fellow COPD patient, worked in power plant construction, where dust and, later, soot would be regular byproducts.It’s a potent cocktail, and in April, a group of four-dozen Chinese doctors and researchers confirmed what these men, their doctors, and surely millions of modern Chinese citizens already knew: Just like smoking, long-term exposure to high concentrations of PM2.5 pollution — microscopic, airborne particles 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter — significantly increases the risk of COPD. The epidemiological study of more than 50,000 people across the nation, published in The Lancet, noted in particular that annual mean exposure to levels of PM2.5 greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air — a common condition in many Chinese cities — was associated with a significantly higher rate of COPD even among people who never smoked.Patients like these face difficult choices. On the one hand, they have been told to stay indoors to avoid inhaling pollutants that can worsen their COPD. And yet, they must venture outside in order to access treatments they hope will prolong their lives. In this way, they are not so different from their fast-growing country, which also faces excruciating either-or choices as it tries to balance economic growth with the need to clean up its spectacularly dirty air. China’s leadership is now working diligently to navigate the myriad trade-offs — sometimes with a brutal efficiency.“You have to pay attention to two weather conditions: One is gale, high wind, which brings heavy dust. The other is a cold day with ‘big fog,’” said Li Fengchen, a farmer and another COPD sufferer. “I will not walk outside on those days.”


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