By LES BLUMENTHAL
WASHINGTON -- From 500 miles in space, satellites track brown clouds of dust, soot and other toxic pollutants from China and elsewhere in Asia as they stream across the Pacific and take dead aim at the western U.S.
A fleet of tiny, specially equipped unmanned aerial vehicles, launched from an island in the East China Sea 700 or so miles downwind of Beijing, are flying through the projected paths of the pollution taking chemical samples and recording temperatures, humidity levels and sunlight intensity in the clouds of smog.
On the summit of 9,000-foot Mt. Bachelor in central Oregon and near sea level at Cheeka Peak on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula, monitors track the pollution as it arrives in America.
By some estimates more than 10 billion pounds of airborne pollutants from Asia - ranging from soot to mercury to carbon dioxide to ozone - reach the U.S. annually. The problem is only expected to worsen: Some Chinese officials have warned that pollution in their country could quadruple in the next 15 years.
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