WATCH: China's Erin Brockovich exposes country's severe air pollution
China's air pollution has been a problem for years but efforts to up awareness for it have achieved mediocre results.
According to the Chinese Ministry Of Health, industrial pollution has made cancer China's leading cause of death and every year, ambient air pollution alone kills hundreds of thousand of people.
But all it took was for one ex-reporter mum to make a video and publish it on Saturday for "air pollution" to become the two dirtiest words in China today.
The New York Times reported that Ms Chai Jing's 104-minute expose documentary on the severity of China's air pollution - Under The Dome - has been viewed more than 20 million times on popular video-sharing website Youku and garnered over 25,000 comments.
Many praised Ms Chai’s piece on social media. Chinese real estate mogul Pan Shiyi wrote on his Weibo account: "My respect to the brave Chai Jing. She’s a heroine."
Some have also drawn parallels between Ms Chai's film and Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, which helped galvanise the environmental movement in the United States.
The former China Central Television journalist, who left the station last year after giving birth to her first child, shared how she had made this video because she was worried for her daughter's health.
Ms Chai, 39, said: “I’ve never felt afraid of pollution before, and never wore a mask no matter where. But when you carry a life in you, what she breathes, eats and drinks are all your responsibility, and then you feel the fear.”
Ms Chai's daughter was diagnosed with a benign tumour at birth and had to be operated on to remove it.
The Boston-based Health Effects Institute estimates that China's smog was responsible for some 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010.
Bloomberg reported via Xinhua News that China’s new environment minister, Mr Chen Jining, told Chinese media he had watched the documentary and sent Ms Chai a text message to express his gratitude as she “raised public attention on the environment”.
Watch the viral video on China's bad air quality (in Mandarin):
Source: New York Times, Bloomberg, YouTube