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The City of Linfen The City of Linfen
Walking in Linfen

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2. Linfen, China - feeding China's apetite for coal

Country: China
Location: Linfen, Shanxi Province, China


Pollutants include coal dust, fly-ash, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, PM2.5, PM-10, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, arsenic, and lead. The major sources of these pollutants are factories and automobiles.

Area Affected

Though Linfen is most highly affected, the whole Shanxi province is highly polluted. About 3 million people are affected by the pollution.


China is one of the most rapidly growing political and industrial powers in the world, and the need for industry is high. Not only does China export much of its goods, the country is also seeing an increasing demand for energy and goods as the standard of living is rising. The Shanxi province, which sits on many coal mines, provides over 2/3 of China's energy. Linfen is identified as the worst city in the province, and the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) states that Linfen has the worst air quality in the country. Residents claim that they literally choke on smog in the evenings.

Many of the coal mines and manufactories are unregulated. Water is diverted from residential and agriculture lines, leaving many cities on tight water rations. The leaders in the country have strong faith in industry and China's economic strength, even at the cost of the environment and the people. A recent survey by the goverment of the Shanxi province found that 93% of the people thought that cleaning up the environment should be a priority. However, 91% of mayors in the region worried about what would happen to the workers if the highly toxic industries were to disappear.

People, Animals, Plants and Waterways Effected

The people of Linfen are dramatically affected by the pollutants spewed into the air 24/7 by the mining and manufactory facilities. Doctors are seeing increasing cases of bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung cancer, all as a result of the heavy air pollution. Cancer rates are also high. In a recent, government run study, it was found that while the natural death rate in China is 6 per 1,000 each year, for people 55 and older in the Linfen area the rate is 61 per 1,000 per year. That's over ten times the rate of natural death. Lead poisoning is also a common occurance for the children of Linfen.

One pollutant that has a more profound effect than others is arsenic. A study of Shanxi's well water published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology found that 52% of the wells in the province had unsafe levels of arsenic. Some of the results of chronic exposure to arsenic include skin lesions, hypertension, cancer, and blackfoot disease (1).

Clean up Activities

The severe environmental issues in the area have been recognized by the goverment, which has plans for improvement. By 2008 Linfen intends to shut down 160 of its 196 iron foundaries and 57 of its 153 coal plants and replace them with larger, cleaner facilities. The city also plans to switch from coal to natural gas for internal heating. Hopefully, China's government will begin listening to the desires of the people for a cleaner and healthier country. 


  • Blacksmith Institute's "World's Most Polluted 2007"
  • "Air Pollution Grows in Tandem with China's Economy" Lousia Lim


(1) Blackfoot disease occurs when the blood vessels in the foot are severly damaged, resulting in a type of gangrene (death of the flesh).
Submitted by cennywenny on Aug 28, 2008