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.
(10/22/2009) In December of 2006 it was announced that the Yangtze River dolphin, commonly known as the baiji, had succumbed to extinction. The dolphin had survived on earth for 20 million years, but the species couldn’t survive the combined onslaught of pollution, habitat loss, boat traffic, entanglement in fishing hooks, death from illegal electric fishing, and the construction of several massive dams. Now, another flagship species of the Yangtze River appears to have vanished.
(10/17/2009) The largest lead smelting company in China has recently admitted responsibility in contributing to pollution leading to poisoning in almost 1,000 children residing near lead factories. Out of 2,743 children tested for lead poisoning, 968 were determined to have excessive lead levels in their blood. Lead poisoning causes anemia, brain damage, and muscle atrophy, among other serious medical and environmental problems. Lead levels in blood samples from the children were 5 times higher than safe limits.
(08/31/2009) Air pollution in eastern China over the past half century has reduced rainfall and exacerbated the risk of drought and crop failures, reports a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
(08/12/2009) Toxic pollutants from China’s trash incinerators are spreading far and wide, putting the health of Chinese citizens in China and Americans in the United States at risk, reports the New York Times.
(08/05/2009) The Xianghe Chemical Factory in China was closed after protests from local residents in the central Human Province. The plant had recently been the target of several widely-covered “mass-incidents” of violent protest. Nearly 1,000 protestors called for immediate closure of the plant last week.
(01/10/2008) A team of researchers, led by biologists at Dartmouth, has found potentially dangerous levels of mercury and arsenic in Lake Baiyangdian, the largest lake in the North China Plain and a source of both food and drinking water for the people who live around it.