Nosing Out China’s Pollution Problems

Scientific Chinese Pollution Detector

The Guangdong provincial government sends out human “sniffers” to track down pollution, reports David Greising of the Chicaqo Tribune. “It’s like for wine or perfume,” says Chen Jian, director of the Guangdong Energy Conservation & Monitoring Center. “You use your nose.”

In its great race to industrialize, China has discovered a significant fact about pollution: it stinks. This bothers Chinese officials so much they have decided that unpleasant odors themselves are pollution. Perhaps if the stench can be eliminated these emissions won’t be poisonous; perhaps the water and air will be sweet and pure and people, animals, plants and fish won’t get sick and die.

In a country of nightsoil fertilizer, of hard-working sweaty millions, where most plumbing is communal and leaky, where crowded streets of huge cities are in a perpetual miasma of diesel exhaust and the aromas of outdoor cooking stalls, where people constantly spit in vain attempts to clear tortured sinuses, the idea of human nostrils separating the pungent from the poisonous is both preposterous and poignant.

Reading reports like this, from the China State Key Laboratory of Odor Pollution Control in TianJin, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Then you see pictures of the dead fish and dead lakes and satellite photos of smoke clouds the size of a continent and you know.


Image by Mike Licht

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