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Thursday, September 17, 2009 11:13 PM

Pollution Creates "Cancer Villages" in China

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One way to measure the cost of growth is in lives. Please consider China's "cancer villages" bear witness to economic boom.

One needs to look no further then the river that runs through Shangba to understand the extent of the heavy metals pollution that experts say has turned the hamlets in this region of southern China into cancer villages.

The river's flow ranges from murky white to a bright shade of orange and the waters are so viscous that they barely ripple in the breeze. In Shangba, the river brings death, not sustenance.

"All the fish died, even chickens and ducks that drank from the river died. If you put your leg in the water, you'll get rashes and a terrible itch," said He Shuncai, a 34-year-old rice farmer who has lived in Shangba all his life.

"Last year alone, six people in our village died from cancer and they were in their 30s and 40s." Every year, an estimated 460,000 people die prematurely in China due to exposure to air and water pollution, according to a 2007 World Bank study.
Cancerous Waters

Here is the first image of a 10-image set of a slide show on cancerous waters.

A lake near Da Bao Shan in the northern part of China's Guangdong province turns reddish brown after the water was contaminated for years August 27, 2009. It is highly unusual for people to contract cancer at tender ages, but not in the villages around Da Bao Shan, one of China's largest mine that produces lead, zine, cadmium and other heavy metals.

Lead Poisoning Concerns

Inquiring minds are reading Lead poisoning latest China safety concern.
China's environmental protection minister has called for more effective measures to tackle heavy metal poisoning, state media said on Thursday, as anger grows among parents with children poisoned by lead.

Incidents of lead poisoning have dogged China's heavy metal bases in Shaanxi, Hunan, Henan and Yunnan provinces, leading to temporary closures of smelters after protests by parents angry at their children's illnesses.

  • In August, more than 800 children living near a Dongliong Group-run lead smelter in Shaanxi province showed high levels of lead poisoning, with 174 admitted to hospital. Angry that the plant had not been fully shut, parents attacked it on August 17.
  • Also in August, 1,354 children living near the Wugang Manganese smelter in Wenping, Hunan, tested positive for high levels of lead in their blood. Villagers there blocked roads to plead for treatment and compensation.
  • China's coal mining industry is the world's deadliest, with average fatalities of just under 10 people a day. Floods, explosions and cave-ins claim more than 3,000 lives a year, often in small, poorly regulated mines.
  • Six children died and tens of thousands were hospitalized after drinking melamine-tainted baby formula in 2008.

Melamine, a chemical compound used in fertilizer, had been introduced to poor quality milk to trick protein tests. Sanlu, the formula maker, went bankrupt and its executives were jailed. Some milk dealers were executed. The crisis caused other countries to suspend imports of Chinese milk products and led to heavy losses in other Chinese dairy firms.
Is the growth worth it?
For who?
Want to trust agricultural goods from China?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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