Toxic pollutants from China’s trash incinerators are spreading far and wide, putting the health of Chinese citizens in China and Americans in the United States at risk, reports the New York Times.
With landfills unable to accommodate the onslaught of garbage generated by an increasingly affluent and consumption-based society, Chinese cities are turning to incinerators as a way to eliminate waste. But these incinerators are being built using varying standards — some may burn relatively cleanly, while others spew toxins like dioxin, cadmium, and mercury, which fall locally and can be carried by air currents across the Pacific. As much as a sixth of sixth of the mercury now falling on North American lakes comes from Asia, mostly from coal-fired power plants and incinerators in China, according to research from the University of Washington and the Argonne National Laboratory. Incinerators also generate toxic ash, which can leak into the local environment when not properly disposed of.
The New York Times reports that urban residents of some Chinese cities have pressed local governments to set higher standards for incinerators but that pollution from shoddy facilities elsewhere in the country still affects everyone.