Unintended Consequences in China: Health, Pollution and Economic Development

The headline is shocking: 8-year-old Chinese girl is youngest to be diagnosed with lung cancer.

A disease typically relegated to those at the end of their lives is creeping into the younger generations in China, as the country experiences rapid-fire economic growth. China’s economy is the second largest in the world and large urban (and even rural) areas are being developed, but along with this economic growth comes an unintended consequence: the cities in northern China are so polluted, 40 times the accepted World Health Organization standard, in fact, and the health of residents is deteriorating.

Just two days ago, health officials announced that a young girl, 8-years-old, has lung cancer. She lives near a busy road and is exposed to high levels of pollution each day. While there may be genetic factors at play, it is hard to ignore the environmental factors.


(Image: Time Magazine)

In Nardi and O’Day’s book, Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart, the authors discuss the concept of technological advances having the potential to negatively impact health, morals, and safety. Two examples the authors discuss are the hydrogen bomb and cloning. Both have serious considerations and health and societal implications.

The unintended consequences situation is playing out in real-time in China today. I’m curious to see how or if China will enact rules and regulations to protect the environment and health of the nation and manage these unintended consequences of technological, industrial, and economic advances.

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