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纽约时报驻北京记者∶生活在有毒的中国

作者∶《纽约时报》记者黄安伟(Edward Wong)

编者按∶这是《纽约时报》驻北京记者黄安伟(Edward Wong)于2013年8月4日在《纽约时报》发表的文章,谈他们夫妇和孩子在严重空气污染和食品造假的中国生活的担忧和恐惧。

1972年出生于美国首都华盛顿的黄安伟在加州伯克利大学获新闻硕士后,1999年加盟《纽约时报》。在派驻中国之前,为该报驻伊拉克记者。2009年黄安伟在北京与美联社驻中国记者蒂尼•特兰(Tini Tran)结婚。特兰为越南后裔,曾担任美联社驻越南分社的社长。该译文为《看中国》网站王燕 翻译。

下面是译文和英文原文∶

最近,我发现自己拖着一个装着12箱奶粉的袋子和装有两套空气过滤器的纸箱通过旧金山国际机场。我刚结束一个公差,正在返回在北京的家,带回去的都是在中国为人父母最抢手的东西,也是我自己的家庭迫切需要的。

中国是世界上第二大经济体,但其增长的巨大成本正在变得越来越明显。居住在中国繁华的城市及越来越多的农村地区的居民,在质疑他们所呼吸的空气、所喝的水、所吃的食物的安全。彷佛他们生活在中国的切尔诺贝利和福岛核灾区那样。

在被派往中国之前,我花了三年半的时间在伊拉克做报道。在那里,外国记者们喋喋不休地谈论各种可能造成人死亡的方式-汽车炸弹袭击、交火、被绑架然后被斩首。在这些威胁中,我活下来了。现在才发现,我不知道∶生活在中国,对我和我的家人是否正在造成无可挽回的损害?

在中国,这里的环境危害是多方面的,其后果可能几年甚至几十年也不一定表现出来。对青少年儿童,这些风险被放大了。外籍劳工面临着权衡这些因素的影响,决定是否留在北京。但目前,在中国,记者的工作仍然有着价值,所以我在坚持待得更久一点。我的妻子Tini也是如此,她在做亚洲记者已经十几年了,并且学习过中文。这意味着我们在让我们9个月大的女儿置身于与中国北方城市居民同样的风险。

和他们一样,我们采取预防措施。在北京,高科技的空气净化器就如令人垂涎的豪华轿车。在2008年,我被派往北京后不久,就架起了两台前任记者们用过的欧洲制造的空气净化器。今年4月初,我第一次拿出其中一个过滤器进行检查∶里面灰尘就象森林里的苔胡那麽厚。它让我想吐。我订购了两套新的过滤器在旧金山提货,这些产品在美国买要便宜得多。我的同事艾米告诉我,在2月份的农历新年期间,一位朋友从加州给她丈夫带来了一个35磅重的空气净化器。她的丈夫是一位美籍华人,被一家大型的美国技术公司派往北京。在拿到这个空气净化器前,他已经在考虑搬到苏州,因为他已无法再容忍北京的污染。

每天早晨,当我起床时,会检查手机上的应用程序,告诉我美国大使馆监测到的空气质量指数。美国大使馆的监测设备就在我家附近。我想看看是否需要开启净化器,以及我和妻子是否可以把女儿带到户外去。

大多数的日子里,她都呆在家里。中国环境保护部周三公布的统计显示,2013年上半年,北京的空气质量在60%以上的天数里被视为是不安全的。全国平均水平也令人沮丧∶在同样的6个月里,接近一半的天数不符合安全标准。环境部长周生贤告诉共产党的喉舌《人民日报》说∶“中国的空气质量是严峻的,污染排放量远远超过环境容量。”

我希望我的女儿能在欣赏户外中成长-日落、鸟鸣、草的味道、云的形状。如果我们在北京继续多住几年的话,这将是不可能的。即使对我这个成年人的肺,我也限制自己在户外的时间。我曾在巴格达底格里斯河的河岸边跑步,在搬来中国之前,曾跑过两个马拉松比赛,但是,我很犹豫会在北京做这样的长跑训练。

我拒绝放弃的是骑自行车,即使这意味着要比乘汽车或地铁上下班接触到更多的有害空气。由于这里可怕的交通-本身就是一个主要污染源。我住在北京小巷的一个庭院里,去办公室、饭馆,都是骑自行车。刚过去的冬季-当1月份北京的细颗粒物水平创下了历史新高,达到世界卫生组织推荐的接触限值的40倍后,我买了一台英国制造的面罩。越来越多的外国人也在因此正在离开中国。

一位在北京的美国医生给他襁褓中的儿子订购了个面罩。我的面罩是光滑的黑色织物带塑料旋钮,使我看起来像电影《星际大战》里的达斯维达。但这总比少活几年要好。

今年春季,首先发表在《柳叶刀》杂志上的“2010年全球疾病负担研究”披露,在2010年,由于户外的污染造成中国120万人过早死亡,占全球的40%。7月份,发表在美国一个著名科学杂志的另一项研究发现,由于在中国北方广泛使用煤,中国北方居民比南方居民平均少活5年。

癌症的发病率在中国也在飙升,即使是中国的官方媒体也在审视着与空气污染之间的关联。同时,中国境内及境外的研究均表明,产前暴露于高浓度的空气污染物,儿童表现出较慢的智力发育和行为障碍迹象。从洛杉矶的研究表明,在污染环境中的儿童,存在永久性肺部损伤的风险。

在中国北方,天总是灰蒙蒙的。我和妻子有时会根据能看到多少蓝天来选择我们的度假之地——我们最近的一次旅行是去意大利的托斯卡纳和阿玛尔菲海岸。我再也不会把那样的蓝天当作理所当然的事。

食品安全是我们考虑的另一个问题。我们已经听说了在火锅馆子里用鼠肉冒充羊肉、地沟油及生长的农作物受到工厂的重金属或废水污染的故事。对于中国和外国的父母而言,最可怕的食品灾难是2008年的三聚氰胺牛奶丑闻,造成6名婴儿死亡,至少有30万儿童生病。从那时起,许多新生儿的父母已竭尽全力,把外国制造的婴幼儿奶粉带进中国。

在我从旧金山出差回来几个月后,我的妻子和我意识到我们的奶粉不多了,就给我们认为可能会很快来中国的朋友发电子邮件,看看谁能自愿帮我们带。我们的朋友Alexa本周从纽约飞来,带了两箱的奶粉。我们还有另外两位朋友答应今年夏天会给我们带。

我最近跟一名在北京的女子赵君(音)聊了聊,她付钱请在欧洲的中国学生和家庭主妇帮她邮寄英国品牌Cow&Gate的罐装奶粉。她说,“我们一直在担心,所以,我们希望能从海外找到具有悠久历史的好的品牌。”

中国人购买国外奶粉是一个非常广泛的现象,已经导致了至少6个国家奶粉短缺。

这种忧虑并不只是牛奶。我们的女儿已经开始吃固体食物了,这样就意味着我们要如何找食物来源的问题。我们要继续在我们家周围的小巷的小商店里购买水果和蔬菜吗?还是从针对外国人和富裕的中国人所开的更昂贵的商店里购买?还是购买本地有机农场的?上个周末,我与朋友到了在北京东北部参观一个农村的房子,那里距离北京一个小时车程。他和他的妻子想在那里租作周末用,但我更感兴趣的是看看是否能用花园种植自己的蔬菜。我知道在这里有些人已经在这麽做了。

“在食品问题上你很难保护到自己”,环保团体“自然之友”的董事会成员李博(音)说。“我从来没有想过会成为一名素食者。在2011年,在畜牧业被曝光了如此多的不法行为后,我对肉受够了。”

在北京度过的每一天,都更难辨别偏执和预防之间的那条细线。六年前,当我回到我的家乡-维吉尼亚州的亚历山德里亚,收拾东西搬往中国,我的母亲递给我几管牙膏。那年夏天,她读到中国制造的有毒牙膏的故事。我觉得那时自己就像重新要去上大学那样。我把那些牙膏放回了父母的浴室。这些天当我回家时,我的母亲仍然不时地给我牙膏带回北京,我不再犹豫就放进了我的包里。

下面是英文原文∶

Life in a Toxic Country

By EDWARD WONG

New York Times August 4, 2013,page SR1

BEIJING — I RECENTLY found myself hauling a bag filled with 12 boxes of milk powder and a cardboard container with two sets of air filters through San Francisco International Airport. I was heading to my home in Beijing at the end of a work trip, bringing back what have become two of the most sought-after items among parents here, and which were desperately needed in my own household.

China is the world’s second largest economy, but the enormous costs of its growth are becoming apparent. Residents of its boom cities and a growing number of rural regions question the safety of the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat. It is as if they were living in the Chinese equivalent of the Chernobyl or Fukushima nuclear disaster areas.

Before this assignment, I spent three and a half years reporting in Iraq, where foreign correspondents talked endlessly of the variety of ways in which one could die — car bombs, firefights, being abducted and then beheaded. I survived those threats, only now to find myself wondering: Is China doing irreparable harm to me and my family?

The environmental hazards here are legion, and the consequences might not manifest themselves for years or even decades. The risks are magnified for young children. Expatriate workers confronted with the decision of whether to live in Beijing weigh these factors, perhaps more than at any time in recent decades. But for now, a correspondent’s job in China is still rewarding, and so I am toughing it out a while longer. So is my wife, Tini, who has worked for more than a dozen years as a journalist in Asia and has studied Chinese. That means we are subjecting our 9-month-old daughter to the same risks that are striking fear into residents of cities across northern China, and grappling with the guilt of doing so.

Like them, we take precautions. Here in Beijing, high-tech air purifiers are as coveted as luxury sedans. Soon after I was posted to Beijing, in 2008, I set up a couple of European-made air purifiers used by previous correspondents. In early April, I took out one of the filters for the first time to check it: the layer of dust was as thick as moss on a forest floor. It nauseated me. I ordered two new sets of filters to be picked up in San Francisco; those products are much cheaper in the United States. My colleague Amy told me that during the Lunar New Year in February, a family friend brought over a 35-pound purifier from California for her husband, a Chinese-American who had been posted to the Beijing office of a large American technology company. Before getting the purifier, the husband had considered moving to Suzhou, a smaller city lined with canals, because he could no longer tolerate the pollution in Beijing.

Every morning, when I roll out of bed, I check an app on my cellphone that tells me the air quality index as measured by the United States Embassy, whose monitoring device is near my home. I want to see whether I need to turn on the purifiers and whether my wife and I can take our daughter outside.

Most days, she ends up housebound. Statistics released Wednesday by the Ministry of Environmental Protection revealed that air quality in Beijing was deemed unsafe for more than 60 percent of the days in the first half of 2013. The national average was also dismal: it failed to meet the safety standard in nearly half the days of the same six-month period. The environment minister, Zhou Shengxian, told People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, that “China’s air quality is grim, and the amount of pollution emissions far exceeds the environment’s capacity.”

I want my daughter to grow up appreciating the outdoors — sunsets and birdcalls and the smell of grass or the shape of clouds. That will be impossible if we live for many more years in Beijing. Even with my adult-size lungs, I limit my time outdoors. Though I ran on the banks of the Tigris River while in Baghdad and competed in two marathons before moving to China, I am hesitant about doing long-distance training for that kind of race here.

One thing I refuse to forgo is biking, even if it means greater exposure to hazardous air than commuting by car or subway. Given the horrendous traffic here — itself a major contributor to the pollution — I go to the office and restaurants and my courtyard home in Beijing’s alleys on two wheels. This winter, I bought a British-made face mask after levels of fine particulate matter hit a record high in January in some areas — 40 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization. Foreigners called it the “airpocalypse,” and a growing number are leaving China because of the smog or demanding hardship pay from their employers.

One American doctor here has procured a mask for his infant son. My mask of sleek black fabric and plastic knobs makes me look like an Asian Darth Vader. Better that, though, than losing years of my life.

THIS spring, new data released from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, first published in The Lancet, revealed that China’s outdoor pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010, or 40 percent of the worldwide total. Another study, published by a prominent American science journal in July, found that northern Chinese lived five fewer years on average than their southern counterparts because of the widespread use of coal in the north.

Cancer rates are surging in China, and even the state news media are examining the relation between that and air pollution. Meanwhile, studies both in and outside of China have shown that children with prenatal exposure to high levels of air pollutants exhibit signs of slower mental development and of behavior disorders. Research from Los Angeles shows that children in polluted environments are also at risk for permanent lung damage.

In northern China, shades of gray distinguish one day from another. My wife and I sometimes choose our vacation destinations based on how much blue we can expect to see — thus a recent trip to Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. I will never take such skies for granted again. “We still can’t get over how blue the skies are here,” the wife of an American diplomat told me over dinner in Georgetown more than half a year after the couple had moved back to Washington from Beijing.

Food safety is the other issue weighing on us. We have heard the stories of rat meat being passed off as lamb at hotpot restaurants, cooking oil being recycled and crops being grown in soil polluted by heavy metals or wastewater from factories. The food catastrophe that most frightened both Chinese and foreign parents was the milk scandal of 2008, in which six babies died and at least 300,000 children fell ill after drinking milk products tainted with melamine, a toxic chemical. Since then, many parents of newborns have gone to great lengths to bring into China foreign-made infant milk powder when it is needed to supplement breast-feeding.

Months after my trip back from San Francisco, my wife and I realized that our supply of formula was dwindling. We sent e-mails to friends we thought might be traveling soon to China, asking for volunteers to be “mules.” Our friend Alexa flew in from New York this week with two boxes of powder. We have two other friends who promise to bring more this summer.

I recently spoke to a woman in Beijing, Zhao Jun, who pays Chinese students and housewives living in Europe to mail her cans of Cow & Gate, a British brand. “We’re constantly worried, so we want to find a good brand from overseas with a long history,” she said.

So widespread is the phenomenon of Chinese buying milk powder abroad that it has led to shortages in at least a half-dozen countries. Hong Kong has even cracked down on what customs officials call “syndicates” smuggling foreign-made powder to mainland China.

The anxieties do not end with milk. Our daughter has begun eating solids, so that means many more questions for us about how we source our food. Do we continue buying fruits and vegetables from the small shops in the alleys around our home? Do we buy from more expensive stores aimed at foreigners and wealthier Chinese? Do we buy from local organic farms? Last weekend, I went with a friend to visit a village home an hour’s drive northeast of Beijing. He and his wife wanted to lease it as a weekend house, but I was more interested in gauging whether I could use the garden to grow our own vegetables. Some people I know here have done that.

“It’s so difficult to protect yourself on the food issue,” said Li Bo, a proponent of communal gardening and a board member of Friends of Nature, an environmental advocacy group. “I never thought I would become a vegetarian. Then in 2011, I said enough of meat, after so many examples of wrongdoing in animal husbandry.”

Each day that passes in Beijing makes it harder to discern the fine line between paranoia and precaution. Six years ago, when I was back in my hometown Alexandria, Va., to pack for my move to China, my mother handed me several tubes of toothpaste. She had read stories that summer of toxic toothpaste made in China. I felt as if I was going off to college for my freshman year all over again. I put the tubes back in my parents’ bathroom. When I go home these days, my mother still on occasion gives me toothpaste to bring back to Beijing, and I no longer hesitate to pack it in my bag.

Edward Wong is a correspondent in China for The New York Times.

A version of this news analysis appeared in print on August 4, 2013, on page SR1 of the New York edition with the headline: Life In A Toxic Country.

2013-08-04

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