China’s Pearl River suffers from “almost impossible to remove” pollution

/ Jeremy Hance

A new study by Greenpeace has found high volumes of heavy metals and organic chemicals in China's Pearl River, which provides drinking water for 47 million people.

A new study by Greenpeace has found high volumes of heavy metals and organic chemicals in China’s Pearl River, which provides drinking water for 47 million people.

In June 2009, Greenpeace took 25 samples from manufacturing facilities’ discharge points into the river. They found heavy metals like beryllium, a know carcinogen; manganese which has been linked to brain damage; alkyl phenols which disrupts hormones; and a number of hazardous organic chemicals.

“What is very disturbing is that once released, it is almost impossible to remove these hazardous substances from the environment. These substances, which are associated with a long list of health problems such as cancer, endocrine disruption, kidney failure and impact to the nervous system, pollute the environment and put people’s health at risk,” said Dr. Kevin Brigden, scientist at the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, University of Exeter.

While many of the hazardous pollutants found in the river are not regulated by China, samples from the discharge sites of Kingboard Fogang facility contained beryllium at 25 times the levels allowed by local Chinese regulation, while samples from Wing Fung Printed Circuit Board Ltd. contained 12 times the level of allowed copper. Both companies produce printed circuit boards for the global market.

Water pollution is rampant in China: in 2007 the Ministry of Water Resources announced that 60 percent of China’s waterways are polluted.

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