Outsourcing Manufacturing to China Negatively Affects U.S. Pollution

Jan 22, 2014 06:16 AM EST | Matt Mercuro

A recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that outsourcing manufacturing to China is actually causing pollution to travel across the Pacific Ocean to the United States.

The team of researchers used a supercomputer at Texas A&M over the course of the past two years to reach their conclusion.

Click here to read the entire study.

"Pollution from China is having an effect in the U.S., and we need to recognize how that is affecting both our background ozone levels and also particulates that are reaching the West Coast," said Don Wuebbles, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the co-author of the study, according to CNN.

Chinese pollution related to exports in the western U.S. contributed between 12 to 24 percent of daily sulfate concentrations, according to the study.

Since the U.S. is outsourcing most of its manufacturing to China, the eastern U.S. saw a decline in sulfate pollution. Western U.S. did see an increase in sulfate pollution however.

Los Angeles and other specific U.S. regions violate national ozone standards "one extra day per year" due to pollution from China, according to the study.

Goods sold in the U.S. like TVs and cellphones are mainly produced in China. Locations in western states can see an increase of ozone, carbon, and dust thanks to chemicals sent over from across the Pacific Ocean in just a few days.

"We know that the efficiency of industry in China is not as it is good in the U.S.," Wuebbles said. Higher efficiency of U.S. manufacturing, combined with controls on emissions and outsourcing, have made strides in reducing U.S.-based emissions.

Sulfate has increased by up to 2 percent since 2006, and ozone and carbon monoxide levels saw minor increases as well in the western U.S., according to the study.

Asthma, cancer, emphysema, and heart and lung disease have all been linked to black carbon. Despite popular belief, rain does not always clear it from the atmosphere, so it tends to just hang around and move throughout the country.

Production of goods for export increased between 2000 through 2007, with volume increasing by 390 percent, though there has not been as much of an increase since the global financial crisis, according to CNN.

Since then, China has essentially become a "large net exporter of energy-intensive industrial products," the study said.

In order to decrease pollution from China, Wuebbles believes the U.S. would have to increase the "efficiency of manufacturing processes while re-examining energy production," according to CNN.

"Consideration of international cooperation to reduce trans-boundary transport of air pollution must confront the question of who is responsible for emissions in one country during production of goods to support consumption in another," the study said. 

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