This true-color image reveals much of eastern China covered by a thick blanket of smog, on September 12, 2004. The gray-colored haze, easily distinguished in this scene from the brighter white clouds, extends from the province of Mongolia (top center) all the way south to the Hunan Province (bottom center).
Such intense, long-lived pollution events are particularly concerning in light of new research by the U.S. National Institutes of Health which shows that air pollution can reduce children’s lung function. According to the researchers’ findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Children who live in polluted communities are five times more likely to have clinically low lung function—less than 80 percent of the lung function expected for their age.” The researchers conducted their study over an 8-year period in some of the most polluted areas across the greater Los Angeles area. They tracked levels of air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, acid vapor, elemental carbon, and particulate matter in areas where children live and found that children living in the most polluted areas showed “significant reductions in the volume of air that they could exhale after taking a deep breath as compared to children living in areas with cleaner air.”
This image was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite. The high-resolution copy available here is 250 meters per pixel.
Credit: NASA image by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team