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Asian Industrial Pollution Reaching New England Skies
by Roddy Scheer
An international group comprised of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists has found that airborne
industrial pollution from Asia is lingering high over New England and the Atlantic Ocean this summer,
raising concerns that improved American air quality in recent years may be jeopardized by the effects of
increasing industrialization and weak regulation abroad.
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"We have to be concerned whether the cost of continuing to
ratchet up emission controls is not going to be offset by
growing pollution coming to us from Asia," says Daniel Jacob,
deputy mission scientist for the study, dubbed the International
Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and
Transformation. "At some point, it may be cheaper to sell
pollution control equipment to China."
According to University of New Hampshire atmospheric
scientist and study team leader Robert Talbot, the new findings
should lead to international treaties capping pollution outputs. "I don't think we had the knowledge that it
was quite so extensive and quite so long-range,” he says. “Papers are starting to appear saying it may be
difficult for several Pacific cities to meet pollution standards because of Asia."
While the study is being coordinated by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), researchers from several universities spread across six countries are aloft in airplanes and hot air
balloons and are at sea in specially equipped research vessels to take readings for the intensive six-week
study, which wraps up at the end of the summer. Besides learning about how pollution moves through the
atmosphere, researchers are hoping to improve efforts at predicting when airborne pollution levels reach
dangerous levels in various at-risk sections of the United States and beyond.