The Trouble With “Made in China”

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To Beijing or Bust

A year ago my family and I moved to Beijing, China for what was supposed to be a three-year job.  We had spent several years learning the language, studying the culture and trying to familiarize ourselves with a country that has very little in common with our own.  One thing we kept hearing anecdotally was how polluted it was in China.  I like to think that I have a rather rational mind that veers easily into cynicism so when I heard “ pollution” I thought I understood what that meant.  I’ve lived in urban areas for most of my life so I figured I knew how to deal with the smog and general grit that is part of the grind of city life in the post industrialized world.

I was wrong.

Crazy Bad

The pollution we had heard so much about was immediately apparent even before we were on the ground in Beijing.  We flew into the city via Siberia and came in over the mountains.  The city itself lay to the south and smothered in a dense sulfurous cloud.  I am originally from San Francisco and the pollution was not unlike the blanket of fog that rolls in from the sea on the side of the Pacific.  But this was not a refreshing, cool mist.  It was instead a putrid poisonous blanket.  Even before we had exited the airport, our mouths were coated with a dense metallic flavor that overwhelmed our ability to taste anything else.  It was appalling, shocking and, as we would come to discover, completely normal for a Chinese mega city.

The author’s children in Beijing

In the months to come my family would have to readjust to a new life which included wearing high tech masks, living with industrial air filters in our house and the constant, daily checking of the US embassy twitter feed that monitored the deadliest particles, PM 2.5.  These are the bits of pollution that cause cancer, strokes, heart disease and a bevy of other afflictions.  To give you an idea of how bad the air is, the average PM 2.5 in an airport smoking lounge is 166.  In January of last year, Beijing and more than 30 other Chinese cities suffered what has become known by the grim portmanteau as, “Airpocolypse.”  During that time we saw PM 2.5 levels that clocked in around 800 – generally unheard of numbers that superseded a scale designed to top out at 500.  A smug clerk at the American embassy had originally thought nothing above 500 would occur so this person cheekily labeled anything beyond that as “crazy bad.”  This created a small diplomatic incident.  It seems that the Chinese government, which has long complained about the US publicly measuring pollutant levels, did not see the humor.

chinacompare

At levels approaching 500 you can see the pollution inside of buildings.  It is a haze that lingers in the florescent lights.  The average for last January was “hazardous,[1]” (PM 2.5 levels of 300-500). I kept my children inside almost constantly, fitted them with masks, and ran a dozen air filters in our home.  At school they had to play in a “dome” of hospital grade purified air straight out of science fiction. I was worried I was living in the not too distant future in a world that had been ruined and driven into the uninhabitable.  I was constantly frightened, paranoid even, that I was literally killing my children.  We could never go anywhere without having to weigh it against the possibly life altering toll it would take on us.  It did not matter that thousands of years of history was at our fingertips; we could not enjoy it.  We had to cram all of our exploration of Beijing in on the rare days when the pollution levels dipped below 100 parts per million.  The issue of pollution took over our lives.

Consequences

In April of last year it came to a head when I got sick.  I ended up in a hospital while on vacation in Hanoi (an experience I do not recommend) and had to be airlifted to an international hospital in Bangkok.  It was all very dramatic and gruesome.  I was diagnosed with an illness that fits into the growing list of ailments that doctors are beginning to think arise because human beings have not been able to adapt to the chemicals, pollutants, sugars, etc. that dominate modern life.  But I’ve been healthy all my life.  I am young.  I ate organic food in the crunchy culture of 1980’s San Francisco before organic food was phenomena.  So the big question was, did China make me sick?  Some doctors told me it was inconclusive.  Some said that it was untestable.  Other doctors said absolutely, without a doubt I got sick because China poisoned me.

We went home.  Six months after moving to China we came back to the States.  We are still trying to wrap our heads around what happened to us personally and what is going on environmentally on the other side of the world.  Here is what I do know.  China is, in a world that is growing more polluted every day, one of the most polluted places on the map.  16 of the top 20 most polluted places on the face of the earth are in China.  It is an overwhelming global problem.  Winds move the pollution over the earth and there is growing evidence that pollution from Asia is blowing over the Pacific Ocean and affecting the United States.  But even before that, the pollution goes into their rivers and pours into our oceans.  It is everywhere.

A Calamity of Reasons

Why is the pollution in China so bad?  There are many reasons.  One is a total lack of regulation.  There is no EPA equivalent in China and the scant limits the government tries to place on factories and companies are easily overcome in a country where bribes are the rule and not the exception.  China has no rule of law so the consequences of paying a bribe or falsifying paperwork or manipulating an inspection to circumvent measures designed to curb pollution are commonplace.  In fact, being a heavy polluter is often rewarded since massive output is the goal of any business in China thanks to an outdated economic model.  For the last thirty-five years China has undergone unprecedented growth and experienced the world’s largest migration from the rural to the urban in human history.  Their wealth has grown at leaps and bounds.  The average sixty year old in China today endured starvation during the Great Leap Forward, experienced the mayhem of Cultural Revolution, and now lives in a wealthy China, gunning for status as a world power.  But modernization at the rate is downright dirty especially when first world consumption is combined with third word practices such as heating a home with a compressed chunk of coal.    The other thing about China is that it has so many people – 1.3 billion – and they want to live in warm homes and drive cars and eat meat.  But this type of living takes a ghastly toll on the planet, especially when multiplied by such a massive population.[2]

It is easy to stand in judgment at this point and want to rail against a political system and cultural values that would allow this sort of environmental catastrophe. However, the truth is, one third of Chinese pollution comes from the creation of cheap goods that are in demand all over the western world.  Think of all the plastic crap you have in your house from baby toys to bathmats.  All of this junk that is so much a part of our daily lives that were are almost blind to it is made in China and its production is killing people.  In fact, it’s killing children.

Chinese baby with face mask

Photo of a Chinese baby with a face mask by LinWen Xihua for Corbis

Made in China

For most of my life I have put an ethical value on saving money.  They way I understood saving money meant buying things cheaply.  America’s economy is built around the fundamental tenant of capitalism: “buy a lot and often.”  I thought it was wise and I thought that it was best to buy things for as little money as possible.  But I am now convinced this is wrongheaded and damaging.  The American consumer has skin in this game.  Blood on our hands.  We have culpability in China’s pollution problem.  We must buy fewer things of higher quality that last longer.  Recycling is not enough.  We must change how we live our lives in order change the world.  And that is hard to do.

made_in_chinaThis summer I was in a big box store and I passed by a tent that was set up for display.  Its shiny newness stood out among the bicycles and baseball bats on display and when I walked by it I was hit with a pungent odor that flung me back into the bad old black days of Beijing’s “Airpocolypse.”  The tent smelled of China.  It stunk like the chemicals that lingered in my children’s hair as they slept at night.  It reeked like the morning on the days the pollution blotted out the sun.  I looked at the tag and sure enough it was stamped with “Made in China.”

Since coming back from China I have tried to live without “Made in China.”  It’s tough and not always possible but it is worth putting in an effort. It is worth being deliberate.  I hope that someday, toxic chemicals in our clothing will become as taboo in many circles as the wearing of fur or the eating of meat has become for many people.  I hope that awareness will grow and as it does, people will match that awareness with action.

I am not someone generally comfortable on soapboxes and it is not my style to cry out in the wilderness, however, I believe this is the most pressing issue of our time.  The degradation of the environment is something that should not be viewed with phobic skepticism or as a point of view pertaining only to one political party.  It is not about politics.  It is about living.  Our world is being damaged and possibly even destroyed by a modern demand to posses everything we can possibly imagine.  This is real and it is happening now.  It is an urgent burden that, I am convinced the earth and the life on it cannot bear.

Carly Physioc – the author while in Beijing


[1] The US embassy warns that pollution at this level brings “serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; serious risk of respiratory effects in general population.”

[2] It is worth noting here that we in the West have set a very bad example in how we have defined prosperity.

58 thoughts on “The Trouble With “Made in China”

  1. Jocelyn O'Leary

    I’m not one for soapboxes either, Carly, but I’m passing this one around to all I know. And I’ll pray for your message to spread and affect deeply those who read it. I know it has affected me.

  2. Paul Etherington

    Hi Carly,
    You have hit it on the head…we are in HK and suffering from this pollution too as the winds change and southern China factories fanatically ship goods with dirty container trucks and ships…
    Consumerism is driving us into illness, and difficult to stop it… We all need to buy from local sources, back Made in the USA and made in Britain. This would also mean new small factories that are sustainable.
    Good Luck
    Cheers Paul

  3. Kate

    Scary stuff. I have also been moving to the philosophy that fewer things that last longer are much better. Chemicals are just everywhere.

  4. JAY

    For years I have had what I call a tummy pull when going into material stores – it began when I was about 15, my tummy would gurgle and then I would need the bathroom. I continued with these symptons and then I found if I went into the new $2 type stores I would have a terrific stomach pains and again I would have to find the bathroom. Now that the big shopping centres are around I would find myself increasingly disorientated and begin to feel quite ill and everything in me would want to get out of there. Needless to say shopping is a bit of a nightmare these days. I like what you wrote and totally agree with this. Always wash your fabric whether it is to sew with or a garment shop bought. thanks again J

    1. Vee Savage

      I can’t stay in clothing stores for more than an hour without getting a terrible migraine and throwing up. I always thought it was the neon lights but now you mention it, the smells definitely contribute.

  5. axelbushing

    We are beginning to inform our politicians that we are willing to pay extra for products manufactured in Canada, because of safety regulations, AND because we owe it to our neighbors to keep them employed.

  6. Michelle

    Thank you for writing and posting!! It was informative and makes me want to be more vigilant about buying items made with sustainable materials and made locally.

  7. Edward

    Carly, you talk of the 1.3 billion folks over there wanting the same things as we in the west. India is almost as big with same wants and desires. My thinking is that until we inhabitants of this planet stop our insatiable desire for growth we are not in a good place. We already overcultivate this planet as evidenced by depleted oceans and that we think we are feeding the planet by over-fertilizing and over-pesticiding our own environments here in North America to accomplish this. Our lakes are turning green and 1/3-1/2 our rivers/lakes are toxic plus there are pesticides/anitbiotics in most things we ingest. I agree that China has issues with their environemntal track record, but we here are guilty of the same. In order to stop the accelerated rate of degradation don’t we need to stop/slow the growth of the human race who have the same selfish interests which are the same no matter where we come from. The human poisonous/over-consuming footprint on this planet is unsustainable, I believe, with our current exponential population growth. Exponential population growth = exponential environmental demands. We need to slow down, stop over-consuming and enoy our beautiful blue planet!

    1. A.Hope

      Something like a pan-epidemic? Surely that would slow us “humans” down..and that is probably what is in store for us if we don’t. Nature has way of doing what is best for the survival of the planet, and we are just one life form taking up too much space.

  8. Jessica

    I couldn’t agree more. We also recently watched the video on netflix about walmart. So much needs to change and improve it’s overwhelming at times. I too will do my best not to by from China (my mother has been telling me this for many years already) your experience is shocking. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Glerky

    I lived there for 3 years and left because of the air quality. It takes living there to fully understand how bad it is. I look at the sky now and am always appreciative of the blue (or grey) sky above. It’s sad though as the city, country, culture and language were so interesting. Take away the pollution and I’d have stayed a long time.

  10. Martin Wood

    We need to start making things again that endure, that are repairable, not disposable. Things of value that are designed to last. Hearing Canada had an ad that said our hearing aids are so technologically advanced they are disposable. What a disgusting waste of materials and resources!

  11. Matthew St. John

    Carly….I just spent about a week in Shanghai in early December. It was as you described the whole time, with one of the days being a record breaking pollution day of well over 600. I have travelled all over the world but never experienced anything like it before. My throat hurt, my eyes hurt, my clothing and hair smelled horrible, and my skin felt like it had this weird film on it. My hotel room was hazy, and I hardly saw the sun the entire time. For the life of me, i do not know how people live in it.

  12. Barb

    So well written. I too had heard how dirty China was, and thought “how can it be?” Needless to say during my first business trip there a year ago, and on subsequent trips I was totally stunned. While the Shanghai suburbs or Suzhou and Wuxi are slightly better than Beijing, they do reach the hazardous levels. Eyes burn and you can chew the air. Both trips I became violently ill after just 4 days. We in the West must intercede. We are just as culpable as the Chinese. Glad you and your family are home safe.

  13. Ruth

    I’ve been convinced for a long time that the pollution from China is what is causing the melting of our Arctic. It is a global problem that needs to be aggressively addressed and quickly.

  14. eliza

    okay, except let’s focus on lifestyle expectations and material demands, because china as well as most of europe is headed for a population *collapse* in the next 50 or so years. it isn’t the amount of people, but how these people are living, and expect others to live so that they can have as big a slice as they want.

  15. julia manuel. toronto, ontario

    carly,
    phenomenal voice you have. thank you for writing sharing speaking up & out. i wholeheartedly agree 100%. as others before me here have written i feel deeply impacted by your personal account of human “life” in China which terrifies me as a fellow and parent. i ‘do not compute’ cannot understand why we humans have become so obsessed with “more, more, more” regarding possessions turning a blind eye to its’ adverse socio-economic-environmental impact – how do we sleep at night? personally, i don’t sleep well. because i alone can’t fix it – when it is literally killing us, polluting this beautiful gift called earth and life that we arrogantly pillage & plunder. we are nature, there is no separation. why is our species so hell bent on self-harm? though i certainly don’t know everything? i feel certain no other species is as self-destructive as we are. we are “human beings” not “human doings”. our measure & meaning of success is seriously screwed. insane in fact. at 41 years of age, i’m presently in my third “severe depressive episode” since 2009 when i gave birth to a majestic human we named Lily (Lillian) and developed post-partum depression. i live with, not suffer from, life-long depression & anxiety (i’m a constant experiment to myself & doctors as we try to figure out what med best fits to help me feel more “human” so i can BE present, healthy, be a parent, partner, friend to myself & others, BE a more stable, contributing member of our society/community). point being, my measure of success is: just by being here, I am successful. just getting out of bed in the morning. going outside for a walk or to doctor’s appointments? a triumph of spirit. actually playing freely with my daughter? laughing with my husband? would be VICTORY. nothing else matters. if we do not have our HEALTH we have nothing. i feel your pain carly. my personal account of insanity is being…and not being able to cure what ails us. “if i were running the world, present day…i would empower people by employing them, paying them ENOUGH so that they can get on with the act of living an EXCELLENT LIFE not merely surviving it and perhaps help us all feel we are ENOUGH just as we are…shopping/demanding will never fill the holes inside our souls….so we could just BE HERE. BE PRESENT.”
    NATURE as it IS provides ENOUGH. sad that us perfectly imperfect humans don’t GET that. some do, of course. much to my heartbreak, not the people who really CAN change the ominous direction we’re headed in. possibly my tone sounds hopeless? i’m sorry if it does, that is not my intention. the healthy cynic in me believes that only a global revolution will turn our world onto a positive, healthy path…knowing that revolutions only occur when people’s backs are against the wall…it will have to get worse before it gets better. the beatles really were ahead of their time ; )
    thank you again carly, for sharing your clear, beautiful voice…for providing here a forum for thoughtful discussion and for inspiring me to speak up here with you. i’m fairly certain my voice isn’t quite as clear and well thought out as yours, yet despite my desire to delete it out of fear it’s not “perfect” lol, i’m going to post it anyway because i’m inspired to to be in the moment : ).
    be well.
    julia
    mamamaitri@gmail.com

  16. Anna

    This is all too real, on many levels for me. During my college days in the late 90′s I visited China and was immediately overcome by the pollution upon my arrival. While walking the streets of Hong Kong, I innocently and accidentally stepped in a shallow street puddle. After that seemingly small event, I was plagued for weeks with rashes on my legs from where the street water had splashed. Fast forward 20 years when I purchased a souvenir shop in a rural town of Virginia. I opened a box of souvenirs that the previous owner had purchased and was overcome, and overwhelmed with a smell of ungodly artificial/chemical stench that triggered an immediate migraine. I also began having allergic reactions to the CARDBOARD BOXES that items were shipped it. In order to open a box marked “origin China”, a mask and construction gloves were necessary. Needless to say, after learning the reactions that my physical body was having to inanimate things, my purchasing habits changed. With this change also made me aware of what is in the food that is on our shelves in the US. Never, never, never ever in a million years will I allow candies or foods produced in China in my home or in the mouths of my children, family, and friends. Check the labels, folks. There is no FDA, there is no regulation, there is only the guarantee that there is the potential of something dangerous, something harmful in the products. It’s only a matter of time when an outbreak of some sort occurs because of harmful ingredients or poor manufacturing processes in food manufactured in China. After all, didn’t we just have an incident with dog treats made in China??

    1. Gareth

      I agree with everything you say, but can’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable when you say “they want to live in warm homes, drive cars and eat meat”. Don’t we all? Who can blame people wanting to keep warm? Are we ready to accept a lower, more sustainable lifestyle ourselves? I fear not, but hope I’m wrong.My own personal small-scale response is just to try to consume only what I need, but my lifestyle is probably a thousand times more comfortable than many in the developing world. Well done for your article, though, very informative.

  17. Miller

    LONG — BUT well worth the reading.

    Make the connection.

    As a nurse with over 30 years experience, I have seen a lot of people with various illnesses caused from foods, chemicals and fragranced products as well as VOC’s in their homes, schools and workplace. This problem is growing as more and more chemicals are being introduced and used on a daily basis.

    More and more people have Asthma, Allergies, Hives, Eczema and respiratory illnesses than ever and I can not emphasize how important it is to educate yourself about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and the harm you may be doing to your health by using chemicals and fragranced products.

    If you or a loved one suffers from Asthma, Allergies, Eczema, chronic headaches, reproductive problems, Migraines, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Porphyria, Autism, ADD, Fibromyalgia etc., you need to read further and learn about the signs and symptoms of MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

    Most doctors will not inform you about this because patients as a whole like to walk out of a doctors office with a prescription for some magical medicine and they do not want to be told that their expensive new perfume or newly installed carpet, mattress, paint, fast food, petroleum clothing, etc. may be the culprit. So, the doctor will give you medications, ointments, etc. and many of these meds either do not work or cause other health problems thus compounding the problem. Worse yet… most doctors are clueless but that’s another story.

    Chemicals and fragranced products (natural or petroleum based) are often the root of all evil when it comes to many health issues today. And, it is not only personal body or cleaning products causing havoc on your health….many people become ill after wearing brand new clothing, using latex products or eating latex related food, wearing dry-cleaned clothes, installing new carpet, painting, buying a new mattress or after home renovations often due to the Flame Retardants, Antimony, Benzenes, Formaldehydes, etc. used in these products. So the answer is NO, you are not imagining that 2 weeks after your home, office or classroom got renovated you started to become ill, get dizzy or have headaches, break out in eczema rashes or have allergic reactions. This is happening more and more these days and adults as well as children are becoming sicker and sicker.

    Think of all the little children lined up at allergist offices and given steroids, antihistamines, allergy medications, topical ointments, etc. when just a little prying on the doctors part would reveal the child sleeps on sheets laden with perfumed detergent, fabric softener, wears pajamas with flame retardant and every room in the house boasts a plug in air scent of chemical oil! What would you expect with the bombardment of all these chemicals?

    How many times have I seen people in the grocery store with Bounce, Glade Plug-Ins and Febreeze in their shopping cart along with a bottle of Benadryl , Migraine Excedrin and a box of Allergy Tablets ? Why don’t they make the connection?

    Here is a Brain Spect Scan Before and after a whiff of perfume:
    http://www.ourlittleplace.com/spect.html

    Many of the below mentioned items are common triggers to sinus illness, asthma, eczema, itching, headaches, Migraines and allergy issues amongst other health problems. Get rid of them and your body will thank you.

    BIG NO-NO’s
    No Bounce or any other dryer sheets
    No Febreeze
    No Glade Plug-ins
    No scented candles
    No Fragranced Products on Body, Hair or Clothing or linen
    No fragranced personal products
    No Smoke
    Newspaper ink and magazine print is very toxic and many people get rashes on their hands from this.
    No sharpies
    No petroleum based clothing or shoes
    No Dander
    No Sprays
    No fragranced dish detergents
    No soda
    No artificial sweeteners
    No latex products or latex related foods
    List is endless but all contributes to ill health.

    And remember, it is NOT the smell, it is the Chemicals that make up the smell that creates the problem. So, even if something is “Fragrance Free” these products often mask the smell with another chemical !

    More and more offices and schools are creating “Fragrance Free Zones” for these very reasons.

    1. Lisa

      Miller, I’d love to publish your comment with a link to Carly’s piece as an article in a magazine I edit. Our readers have families with young children. Please would you email me at lisaboisvert(at)yahoo(d0t)com This information is so helpful and so important. Thank you. Lisa

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  20. Michele

    Thank you for your well written and informative article. I have multiple allergies and have the most trouble with ‘scents’. I love ‘Miller’s’ comments and links. I will post this on my facebook and send via e-mail to those that do not have access to facebook. We do need to be accountable for our own actions and purchases, we need to realize that this is a global issue. You and Miller have said so well. Thank you.

    1. Ann H Csonka

      ““We must buy fewer things of higher quality that last longer.” Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes! This is what I keep thinking and saying. If we all did this, it would bring about great change.”

      My husband and I and many friends have been saying this for years (and if u r in your 70′s-80′ that’s a lotta years. QUESTION: WHERE can you buy a freezer today that will work 20+ years from now? A phoneset that works more than 2 or 3 years…on and on. In 1971 I won an AT&T answering machine in some contest; I have forgotten the details, but that machine lasted nearly 30 years…a bit clumsy and used tape, but WORKED unfailingly. Then it finally quit…probably reparable, but in a time crunch and a relative replaced i with a multifunction thing that didn’t work properly after the first 2 years.
      THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS over and over.

      We are more wasteful than I ever imagined people could be. …and more greedy. …etc
      We cling to Market upswings gleefully, and practically genuflect to rising GDP numbers.
      BUT THE REAL NUMBERS ARE THE R-E-A-L- COSTS of all the “growth” – because it is, indeed, killing us and killing the planet.
      It seems we are pretty much on the same wavelength here, and I need sleep, so I’lll cut this off.
      But thank you for the article and everyone for the excellent posts.

      Btw, surely in reading up on China anyone might expect to read some actual environmental health stats . . . but maybe not in the excitement.

  21. Kerri Black

    I slowly started to cut out buying anything made in China when my dachshund almost died in 2007 from the Chinese ingredient Melamine in her USA dog food. Then shortly after all the recalls of Chinese made children’s products happened and as an Assistant Director of a children’s center I was responsible for keeping up on this and getting all the recalled products out of our center. This prompted me to research non-Chinese made products for babies and children when I had my first child in 2009, which can be done. I have found some great products not made in China. Then the more I researched China’s manufacturing process I came up with a slew of other reasons to stay China free and pollution was a big reason. The more people who boycott Made in China items the better off the world will be.

  22. Jenn

    Thanks, Carly. This is a really important issue, and one more people need to be made aware of. I’m working on an eco-friendly kids’ clothing line called Jill and Jack that goes beyond pink and blue, so that people will have more and better options for dressing their kids. I’d love to hear what others are doing.

  23. Angie

    Fabulous article, Carly! So timely, considering the AQI was over 600 yesterday. Hope you guys are well and that you are feeling better. We miss you!

  24. mike lloyd

    When i was a boy growing up in 1950′s London with a couple of million coal fires lit every morning in the winter months,And if there was a temperature inversion a thick green fog would descend into the streets.The smell was like the gas works where they cooked coal to make gas.It was kind of like a sewer smell.On top of that with snow in the streets we went to school in shorts a blazer and shirt and tie.So while things in China may seem awful to us now was in fact common in post war europe..Every industrial nation will go through this transition as a learning process.The funny thing is we survived with no heat in our bedrooms,Windows frosted solid in the mornings and I don’t remember kids with allergies or Autism ect.Every kid had to drink a pint of milk a day provided by the government ,Schools provided lunches and we all ate it,Never seen anybody get sick or rushed to hospital.Wonder if our new super clean enviroment isn’t producing a new breed of people who can’t fight anything off.Thank you.

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  26. Heidi Lindell

    After 3.5 years in Shanghai, I myself and plagued with numerous neurological and other health problems. I pray each day that this impact stays with me and my two precious children that grew up in their youngest years there are not one day paying the price. Thank you for your voice!

  27. joelle-marie lehsten

    boah… what the heck.. unbelievable.. i already knew that with “made in china” was something wrong, but that its this bad ~ thank u for showing us even more clearly XXX

  28. CariG

    This is a huge issue and it worries me that I see so many people that shop away at big stores buying up a lot of junk they end up throwing away. I do my grocery shopping at small mom and pop stores and try to buy my clothes at used clothing stores and when I need anything else I check craigslist first. Buy used before new if you can is my motto. And I know what everyone is talking about that new clothes smell. When I do end up buying new clothes I have to wash them first. They smell like poisonous chemical to me. On that note most perfumes are toxic and I wish everyone would stop wearing most perfumes. They give me a headache and leave me feeling sick to my stomach. Especially the ones that are very sweet powdering smelling. They are the worst!

    I have in the last few years cut way back on the amount of meat I eat and wish everyone would do the same. Cattle ranches attribute to a lot of air pollution. Many nutritionist say a handful size of meat a week is all you need. Many people eat twice this every day. That’s too much meat for your body to process and it ends up rotting in your colon. In the US the two top causes of death are heart disease and colon cancer. Both are largely caused from diet. Processed foods, sugar, GMOs, and meat from animals on growth hormones, and antibiotics given to animals because of poor diet and bad living conditions are all very bad.

    As far as regulations go in the US, there needs to be more. The air quality here is not so great. I grew up in San Jose and this area used to be a lot of horse ranches and orchards. Now most of that is gone and replaced with homes and shopping centers. The air used to smell clean and sweet like the orchard trees. Apricots, peaches, cherries, walnuts, and plums; no more. :( Now San Jose smells like poo and the North Bay smells like tar. I went to Australia a few years ago and even before I got off the plane I could tell the air was so much cleaner. Went I got off the plane it felt like I was taking in a huge breath of oxygen that I realized I had not been getting. The whole time in Australia I kept noticing how easily my lungs filled up with air and how clean the air smelt everywhere I went. When I got back to Oakland I felt like I was suffocating for almost a month before I got used to it again. No doubt we are faced with serious environmental pollution that will get worse if we all do not change our lifestyle.

  29. 12345

    You should probably stop eating too since now a lot of food source are imported from China.
    Many branded items are also OEM products from China. Stop using them.
    The masks you used were made in China too.
    Maybe the recyling bag in your hand too.

    Not everything “Made in China” is bad. United States and capitalism are why China is what it is today. Blame it on your country. You guys started it.

  30. Kris

    Thank you for writing this. I’m sharing on Facebook. I have a child with asthma and I know that clean water, earth and air are the legacy we should be leaving our kids, not stocks and cash from making the crap that makes them ill and shortens their lives.

  31. Katie

    Thank you for your post! I’m writing from middle east Europe where this problem is unknown for most of the people in my country. I’ll put it on my facebook, people must know what is happening with OUR planet. Big hugs from Poland!

  32. Tom Sharples

    This kind of gross and deadly particulate pollution should be our focus – not the emission of clean CO2 or worrying about the last .00000000000001% that the eco-extremists in the US want everyone to obsess on.

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  34. Ralph Woq

    Seriously. The buck stops in the commercial (or as we call ourselves “first world”) nations. The “first world” destination should really imply the first to seriously pollute the world and rape the planet. Now that others want what the FW has it is an issue. As you acknowledged a fair amount (at least a 1/3 of the pollution is directly to the production that is exported to FW. The anti-china sentiment is more often based in racism and politics. All this crap about bring manufacturing back into the US doesn’t stop the use of petroluem. Keep it real the US has been THE major contributor to the pollution in the atmosphere.

  35. Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

    I just hope more people will come to these realizations and find that we can survive and create better lives only if we create better lives, not in buying whatever we want no matter how it was produced as long as it only be cheap but in taking better care of ourselves and this our world, in and by the ways we live. It’s what I try to show via The Ecology of Happiness (www.beyond-eco.org)…

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  37. Erin

    Thank you for taking the time to write this important article. I was in China in 2000 and 2010 and the economic development and pollution were beyond shocking. A frightening state if affairs that can be curbed by us- consumers. Thanks for the reminder.

  38. Sher

    Thank you Carly for your account of your experience. This is truly amazing and something I have suspected for years. I’m praying it’s not a precursor to what we can expect here in the States.

  39. Erowidus

    A great post. I lived in China for 6 years and have experienced first-hand some of the problems mentioned. Everybody can now see the results of bad choices and poor decision making and we fear for the health of our children. But as bad as China is, the real problems lie much closer to home.

    Without us realising it, corporations now make a lot of those choices and decisions for us.

    The Energy giants aren’t interested in cleaner alternatives. The food industry is literally poisoning us with GMO’s and sweetened products and wheat, which is not the healthy grain it used to be 50 years ago. Pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides are degrading the environment and killing bees by the millions. Our throwaway cheap plastic consumer culture is polluting the land, air, and seas, and destroying the biodiversity of this once beautiful, and bountiful, planet. Added to all of this is a debt-based irresponsible financial system coupled to a rampant advertising industry, both of which merely encourage us to make things worst.

    As responsible, mindful individuals, we must start making smarter choices.

  40. Andrew David

    Planet Earth…built for 7million….housing 7 billion….I have no faith in our future so in the short term lets take care of what we have in Canada,and stop giving it away to those who want it

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  43. david

    I totally agree that the world needs to get a handle on pollution of all kinds but pointing fingers at China just seems really misguided and kinda racist. When America went through its own Industrial Revolution – euphemistically referred to as the Guilded Age – it was just as filthy and dirty both socially and environmentally. She mentions the EPA as some Knight in shining armor when in actuality it is a puppet of industry and lobbyists as corrupt as anything China has to offer. The US learned the lesson of public relations way before China and did things like put particle scrubbers on their coal plants but that just makes things look cleaner – all the things that cause cancer are still there pumping out into the US skies. The US must take at least half the “blame” here. The solution isn’t to buy American it’s to buy less, period.

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  47. Lisa Bloomquist

    Thank you very much for sharing your story! Here is an article that you might find to be interesting about how environmental toxicants affect mitochondria – http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/05/22/toxsci.kft102.full Mitochondrial damage results in multi-symptom, chronic diseases – like all of the diseases of modernity – chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, autism, autoimmune diseases, etc. Another thing that you may want to look into is what kind of medications you took in the weeks or even months before you got sick. Fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox, Floxin and whatever their equivalent names are in China) deplete mitochondrial DNA and cause multi-symptom, chronic illness. Reactions are often delayed and an individual must cross a tolerance threshold before he or she gets sick. More info can be found on http://www.floxiehope.com.

    Again, thank you for telling your story!

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