Potentially Affected People: 3,000,000
Type of Pollutants: Fly-ash, carbon
monoxide, nitrogen oxides, PM-2.5, PM-10,
sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds,
Source of Pollution: Automobile and
Shanxi Province is at the heart of China's
enormous and expanding coal industry,
providing about two thirds of the nation's
energy. Within this highly polluted region, Linfen has been identified as one of its most polluted
cities with residents claiming that they literally choke on coal dust in the evenings. In terms of air
quality, the World Bank has stated that 16 out of 20 of the world's worst polluted cities are in
China while the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has branded Linfen as
having the worst air quality in the country. Levels of SO2 and other particulates are many times
higher than limits set by the World Health Organization.
Rapid development and unequivocal faith in industry has led to the development of hundreds of
unregulated coal mines, steel factories and refineries which have not only polluted
indiscriminately but have also diverted agricultural water sources. Water is so tightly rationed that
even the provincial capital receives water for only a few hours each day.
The high levels of pollution are taking a serious toll on the health of Linfen's inhabitants. Local
clinics are seeing growing cases of bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung cancer. The children of
Shanxi Province also have high rates of lead poisoning. A growing number of local deaths in
recent years have been linked to these overwhelming pollution levels.
Arsenicosis, a disease caused by drinking elevated concentrations of arsenic found in water is at
epidemic levels in the area. Chronic exposure to this toxic chemical results in skin lesions,
peripheral vascular disease, hypertension, blackfoot disease, and high cancer incidence rates. A
study of Shanxi's well water published inToxicology and Applied Pharmacology found the rate of
unsafe well water in the province to be at an alarming 52%.
Status of Clean-Up Activity:
By the end of this year, the city of Linfen plans to shut down 160 of 196 of its iron foundries and
57 of 153 of its coal producing plants. Small, highly polluting plants will be replaced with larger,
cleaner, more regulated facilities. Emissions will be cut further by shifting from coal to gas for
central heating. Last year, Linfen's residents gained 15 more days of clean, breathable air as a