POLLUTION is not confined to a particular place anymore. It migrates to other places. It is called transboundary pollution and defined by encyclopedia.com as pollution not contained by a single nation-state, but rather travels across national borders at varying rates. Transboundary pollution can take the form of contaminated water or the deposition of airborne pollutants across national borders.
Airborne pollutants, usually microscopic dust particles, can be easily carried by wind to other places. They are so light that these air pollutants can travel thousands of miles, even across oceans. In fact, air pollution from China has reached the Philippines.
According to the Environmental Pollution Studies Laboratory of the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (UP IESM), people from Northern Luzon are breathing dirty air from China. Air samples taken from Burgos in Ilocos Norte contain microscopic particulate matter (PM2.5) and heavy metals from man-made emissions. They are unlikely to have emanated from Burgos or nearby towns since there are no industrial plants there. Seasonal winds brought the polluted air from China to the Philippines.
This is not the first time that far away air pollution reached our shores. In 2015, monsoon winds blowing north-east caused smoke and dust from forest fires in Indonesia’s Kalimantan region, 1,000km away, to drift towards Mindanao. Cebu was also enveloped in a bluish-grey and unusually thick layer of haze for more than a week.
In the United States, a study found that smog in California was caused by emissions from countries across the Pacific Ocean. A report entitled “Pollution Knows No Borders” found that pollution is traveling around the world and, in particular, moving from China to California. Air pollution from coal-fired power plants, vehicle emissions, and factories circle the earth, as does vaporized mercury and many other airborne pollutants.
Tiny pieces of plastic, called microplastics, can also cross boundaries. In a remote, pristine Pyrenees Mountains in Southern France, tiny pieces of plastic pollution were found raining down from the sky. Scientists recorded a daily rate of 365 microplastic particles per square meter falling from the sky. There were no obvious sources for the microplastics within 60 miles (100 kilometers) so it is evident that they came from other places. Researchers say that “Microplastic is a new atmospheric pollutant.”
Well, even large pieces of trash can travel great distances. They are carried by Ocean currents like those plastics found in the shores of El Nido in Palawan which came from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, China and Japan. Some are transported intentionally but illegally, like those containers loaded with trash from Canada.
It’s time that the international community tackles transboundary pollution in the same manner that it dealt with greenhouse gas emissions and ozone-depleting substances both of which have global effects.