Cars inch through the smog-filled city center of Linfen, China
, on July 7, 2007. (See a map of China
The city is listed among the world's ten most polluted places of 2007, according to the New York-based nonprofit Blacksmith Institute.
Linfen sits at the center of China's prodigious coal industry, which is largely unregulated by the government. Residents describe choking on coal dust, and local health clinics have reported an upsurge in bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung cancer, according to the institute.
"The one thing that blew me away was in Linfen, three million people are affected by air pollution," said William Suk, acting deputy director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
"People assume a lot of these sites are in the middle of nowhere, but they're not."
By the end of 2007, Linfen plans to shut down 57 of its 153 coal-producing plants, to be replaced with cleaner, regulated facilities, the institute's Web site reported.
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Photograph by Reinhard Krause/Reuters