As Chinese cities grapple with explosive industrial growth, they also grapple with the side effects, like millions of citizens with pollution-related ills. At Chengdu No. 7 People's Hospital, those patients are a common sight -- and now, the hospital has opened a dedicated "smog clinic" to treat them.
Despite the fact that the official party line on smog suggests that the country's less-than-ideal atmospheric conditions actually provide good cover for military operations, millions of regular people are shouldering the burden of pollution. The World Health Organisation reports that pollution-triggered sickness kills 656,000 citizens each year. Those illnesses range from asthma, heart disease, and lung cancer to less critical problems like chronic coughs and burning skin -- just the type of symptoms treated at the new smog clinic.
The smog clinic, then, is where people go to treat a kind of national autoimmune disorder, as citizens react against the new, artificially augmented skies of Chinese urbanism.
Chengdu enveloped in smog. Image: AP Images/China Photos
Of course, there are already plenty of pollution deniers in the mix: The South China Morning Post cites one doctor who describes the clinic as a publicity stunt and suggests that its patients' illnesses are related to winter weather, not pollution. Though Chengdu has lower levels of air pollution than some Chinese cities, its numbers are very high compared to European cities. The image above shows a statue of Mao Zedong in Chengdu's Tianfu Plaza, enveloped in dense smog.
Patients who arrive at the No. 7 People's Hospital are greeted by a red banner reading "We should not fear smog. It's preventable and curable." That's undeniable -- but how long will it take for those preventative measures take shape? [South China Morning Post]
Lead image of Chengdu smog: AP Images/China Photos