It’s been 50 years since the Clean Air Act of 1970 was enacted in the United States. In that time the US has reduced its air pollution emissions by about 70%. Nevertheless, the US still doesn’t reach the World Health Organization’s annual ambient air pollution guideline limits in many locations. That is true for 91% of the earth’s population. The good news (for Americans) is that the continued outsourcing of manufacturing and service jobs both purposefully and inadvertently exports pollution and might just help the US to reach that goal sooner. The unfortunate downside for countries like India, that undoubtedly benefit from this outsourcing, is that many of the manufacturing sectors are those in the most pollution intensive industries. Undoubtedly, this is no coincidence. Corporations do knowingly export polluting operations to avoid the additional costs of pollution and emissions reducing equipment and processes.
When foreign direct investment sets up manufacturing centres and supply-chain sectors in India without insisting on the same air pollution standards required by their governments back home, they know that they are to some extent profiting from the disease, disability and death of Indian citizens. They knowingly take advantage of the misperception among some Indian policymakers and industrialists that air pollution and ecological damage are unavoidable consequences of manufacturing, chemical production, and mining. Meanwhile, the economies in all countries with more strictly enforced air quality standards and emissions controls grew rapidly over the years completely disproving the notion that air pollution controls are costly and dampen economic growth.