Wind is blowing China's air pollution 'straight across' to the US West Coast

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Air Pollution From China Reaches US

A new study links the increase in ozone precursor emissions in Asia to increased levels of ozone over the US's West Coast.

In the study, published Monday, a team of six researchers from US and Dutch universities found that ozone concentrations over China increased by about 7% between 2005 and 2010 and that ozone traveling in the air from China has reached the western part of the US, challenging the reduction of ozone levels there.

China's meandering pollution likely offset the 2005-10 reduction in ozone that had been expected following US policies aimed at reducing emissions, by roughly 43%, the researchers found.

Over that period, the US government put in place emission-reducing measures and curbed the production of ozone-forming nitrogen oxides by 20% on the West Coast, according to Wageningen University. Yet that did not improve the quality of the air especially in terms of ozone reduction.

And the increased air pollution in Asia might be at least partly to blame.

Lead researcher Willem Verstraeten of Wageningen University in the Netherlands said in statement that the "dominant westerly winds blew this air pollution straight across to the United States."

He added: "As a manner of speaking, China is exporting its air pollution to the West Coast of America."

See the slideshow below for a look at China's pollution problems:

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Wind is blowing China's air pollution 'straight across' to the US West Coast
CHENGDU, CHINA - JUNE 30: Apartment buildings rise into the smog filled skyline June 30, 2015 in Chengdu, China. First inhabited more than 4 thousand years ago, Chengdu now has more than 14 million people living in its metropolitan area. It is China's 5th most populous city and the provincial capital of Sichuan Province in southwest China. The city is is struggling to maintain its ancient cultural identity, while becoming a modern major tech and industrial center. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 03: A delegate wearing the mask walks to the Great Hall of the People during severe pollution before the opening of the 2nd session of the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on March 3, 2014 in Beijing, China. Air pollution has become a big concern during the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Over 2,000 members of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative, a political advisory body, are attending the annual session, during which they will discuss the development of China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
This picture taken on June 23, 2015 shows vehicles running in smog covered streets in Beijing. China's cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use. The issue has become a major source of popular discontent with the Communist Party, leading the government to vow to reduce the proportion of energy derived from fossil fuels. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Tuesday, June 9, 2015 photo, Indian policemen wear masks as they control traffic in New Delhi, India. Never mind lowering the rate of death from air pollution in India and China. Just keeping those rates steady will demand urgent action to clear the skies, according to a new report published Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
This picture taken on June 23, 2015 shows a cyclist wearing a mask in Beijing covered by heavy smog. China's cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use. The issue has become a major source of popular discontent with the Communist Party, leading the government to vow to reduce the proportion of energy derived from fossil fuels. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Chinese woman wearing a facemask walks in front of the Forbidden City on a hazy day in Beijing on June 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Friday, March 8, 2013 Chinese paramilitary policemen march across Tiananmen Square on a hazy day in Beijing, China. Facing public outrage over smog-choked cities and filthy rivers, China's leaders are promising to clean up its neglected environment, a pledge that sets up a clash with political pressures to keep economic growth strong. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A golfer plays on the court on a hazy day at Pine Valley Golf Club on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013. Fog and pollution descended on northern China on Sunday, forcing international golf and tennis players to play in hazardous smog and leading to flight cancellations and road closures as millions of Chinese headed home from a national holiday. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
Residents cross an overhead bridge during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. Endless lines of slow-moving cars emerge like apparitions and disappear into the gloom of the thick smog that has shrouded Beijing for weeks and reduced its skyline to blurry gray shapes. With more than 12 million cars sold in China last year, motor vehicles have emerged as the chief culprit for the throat-choking air pollution in big cities especially Beijing.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Vehicles crawl along a major road in Beijing, China, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. Endless lines of slow-moving cars emerge like apparitions and disappear into the gloom of the thick smog that has shrouded Beijing for weeks and reduced its skyline to blurry gray shapes. With more than 12 million cars sold in China last year, motor vehicles have emerged as the chief culprit for the throat-choking air pollution in big cities especially Beijing.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A China Eastern Airlines plane, bottom, is seen taxiing as the Beijing Capital International Airport is shrouded by pollution haze in Beijing Monday, March 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Air China passenger planes taxi at the Beijing Capital International Airport shrouded by pollution haze in Beijing Monday, March 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese people wearing face masks walk against the capital city skyline shrouded by a haze of pollution in Beijing Monday, March 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese women wearing masks cross the road near the headquarters of the China Central Television headquarters during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Beijing remained cloaked in hazardous white pollution hiding much of its skyline Wednesday, despite the announced closures or production cuts at 147 of the city's industrial plants. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Construction workers walk into a work site during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Beijing remained cloaked in hazardous white pollution hiding much of its skyline Wednesday, despite the announced closures or production cuts at 147 of the city's industrial plants. Chinese characters at bottom left reads "China dream, my dream" at right reads "China, Go!" (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A farmer shovels in a field near electric pylons in heavy haze on a severely polluted day in Shijiazhuang, in northern China's Hebei province, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
Women walk up an overpass near a highway during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Beijing remained cloaked in hazardous white pollution hiding much of its skyline Wednesday, despite the announced closures or production cuts at 147 of the city's industrial plants. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A man wears a mask during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Beijing remained cloaked in hazardous white pollution hiding much of its skyline Wednesday, despite the announced closures or production cuts at 147 of the city's industrial plants. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A man and a car travelling on a road are obscured in heavy haze on a severely polluted day in Pingshan county of Shijiazhuang, in northern China's Hebei province, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Chinese President Xi Jinping braved Beijing's choking smog Tuesday, making an unannounced visit to a trendy alley and sitting with residents in his latest public relations effort to be seen as a man of the people. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
Men wearing masks walk near a road during a day of heavy pollution in Beijing, China, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Cars clog in the traffic in Beijing's Central Business District on a hazy day, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. A rare air pollution alert issued Friday in Beijing prompted health advisories and bans on barbeques, fireworks and demolition work, but fell short of the strictest measures which would include ordering half the city’s cars off the streets. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
A tourist wearing a protective mask stands by as a couple look at buildings in Pudong across the Huangpu River shrouded in heavy haze, at the Bund in Shanghai, China, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. Shanghai’s environmental protection bureau issued a “yellow” pollution warning this afternoon and said it was taking “emergency emission reduction” measures and recommended that children, the elderly and people suffering from heart disease or lung disease should stay indoors and cease outdoor exercises. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A tourist with a protective mask watches the buildings at the Bund under heavy haze in Shanghai, China, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The dirty air that has gripped Shanghai and its neighboring provinces for days is attributed to coal burning, car exhaust, factory pollution and weather patterns, and is a stark reminder that pollution is a serious challenge in China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A couple in protective masks walk under haze in Shanghai, China, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Shanghai authorities ordered schoolchildren indoors and halted all construction Friday as China's financial hub suffered one its worst bouts of air pollution, bringing visibility down to a few dozen meters and obscuring the city's spectacular skyline. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Houses and buildings are covered with heavy haze in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. China, one of the most visited countries in the world, has seen sharply fewer tourists this year - with worsening air pollution partly to blame. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Houses and buildings are covered with haze in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. China, one of the most visited countries in the world, has seen sharply fewer tourists this year - with worsening air pollution partly to blame. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Houses and buildings are covered with haze in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. China, one of the most visited countries in the world, has seen sharply fewer tourists this year - with worsening air pollution partly to blame. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
This picture taken on March 29, 2014 shows residents breathing 'mountain air' from blue bags in a square in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province, reportedly brought in from 190 kms away by a Henan-based travel company as part of a promotional event. Premature deaths and health problems from air pollution cost China as much as 300 billion USD a year, an official joint report by the World Bank and the Development Research Center of the State Council said on March 25, calling for a new urbanisation model for the world's second-largest economy. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 09: People with mask walk in Nanluoguxiang on April 9, 2014 in Beijing, China. China is vowing to ammend its procedures to curb pollution as smog in some areas of China have registered over 20 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO) (Photo by Xiao Lu Chu/Getty Images)
This picture taken on March 29, 2014 shows residents breathing 'mountain air' from blue bags in a square in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province, reportedly brought in from 190 kms away by a Henan-based travel company as part of a promotional event. Premature deaths and health problems from air pollution cost China as much as 300 billion USD a year, an official joint report by the World Bank and the Development Research Center of the State Council said on March 25, calling for a new urbanisation model for the world's second-largest economy. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on March 26, 2014 shows a girl wearing a mask in Beijing as environmental authorities issued a 'yellow' smog alert for the capital. Chinese companies have offered up a fresh idea to help pollution-weary travellers while cashing in on public concerns over dirty air at the same time -- smog insurance. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 26: The people wear face mask walking on the road in smog in Beijing, China, on March 26, 2014. Chinese authorities suggest that old people and those who are sensitive should not get out from their house. Symbolic buildings of Beijing cannot seen due to the air pollution. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Cam/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The researchers determined what was happening by using satellite measurements of nitrogen oxide and ozone and combining it with a chemistry transport model to identify "the causes of increasing ozone levels and analyze intercontinental transport of ozone pollution for the first time ever," according to Verstraeten.

When levels of ozone are high in the lower atmosphere (this type of ozone is referred to as "bad ozone," or ground-level ozone) they have dangerous effects on human health and are a main component of smog.

High levels of ground-level ozone act as a greenhouse gas, contributing to pollution and climate change. ("Good ozone," on the other hand, is a natural component of the Earth's upper atmosphere and helps protect us from the sun's harmful UV rays.)

The researchers say this shows that the fight against increasing ozone levels and climate change must be global. "Local measures to improve air quality certainly help, but the real solution lies in a global strategy," Verstraeten said.

The study concluded that "air quality and regional climate change mitigation policies could eventually have limited impact if not considered in a global context, at least for free-tropospheric O3 and its precursors."

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