Air pollution has long been a critical issue within the highly-industrialized cities of Mainland China. Still, one particular aspect has caused experts at Chinese University and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom to sound an urgent alarm.
Ammonia pollution, a toxic by-product of China’s meat production industry, has been pegged as the cause of nearly 90,000 premature deaths per year throughout the country.
Over the past 30 years, particularly throughout the economic-industrial boom experienced by the country, Chinese citizens have been eating more meat, and livestock farmers and meat processing companies have been working overtime to keep up with the demand.
However, the manner by which meat-bearing animals are farmed and processed for consumption has been anything but sustainable, let alone environment-friendly.
Meat is Murder…But Not In the Way You Expect
Data from 2010 shows that nearly 1.83 million Chinese citizens died premature deaths thanks to particulate matter pollution that was, at the time, widespread in the country’s most industrialized areas.
Likewise, five percent of premature deaths in the country during the same period were noted to have been caused by dietary changes, particularly an increase in the consumption of fresh meat and processed meat products.
According to researchers, the big shift in the Chinese diet occurred between 1980 and 2010. Traditionally, the Chinese diet calls for greater consumption of fruit, vegetables, and grains, with tofu and other soybean products as a key source of protein and meat being an occasional indulgence. However, during this period, researchers noted a sharp increase in the number of people suffering from lifestyle diseases like obesity, atherosclerosis, and diabetes.
Bad for the Environment
At the same time, food production on an industrial scale began to impact the environment seriously.
The production of meat and meat products was up by a staggering 433%, around fifteen to 80 megatons produced in total. This subsequently led to the doubling of agricultural ammonia emissions, thanks to an increase in animal waste and fertilizers for growing animal feed.
This marked increase in the amount of ammonia released into the atmosphere has led to corrosive damage to human organs, resulting in a more significant number of patients suffering from cardiovascular issues, blindness, and lung cancer.
Less Meat, More Veg, Please
According to Professor Amos Tai Pui-kuen, it is virtually impossible for anyone to undo the damage extensive meat production has already caused to the country’s human and environmental health.
However, he strongly advises people to swap their meat-rich diets for meals that feature more vegetables and plant-based foods, with a significantly smaller proportion of meat.
It’s a notion that he hopes will be a good choice for Chinese health and the possible improvement of air quality throughout the country.