On 18 April, 2016, in Jiangsu province, China, almost 500 children attending the same school woke up ill, reports Greenpeace East Asia. They presented various symptoms from bronchitis to eczema, from blood and thyroid irregularities to leukemia.
The news shocked the nation and a task team was immediately
assembled to investigate. It soon transpired that the new
Changzhou Foreign Languages School campus had been erected in close proximity to three former chemical plants. The soil around the school was tested and found to be heavily polluted with a lethal mix of industrial chemicals. Investigators found chlorobenzene in the soil around the school at levels exceeding 100 000 times what is considered safe.
The school closed immediately, but five days later 20 more students fell ill; their medical woes attributed to yet another nearby chemical factory.
Says Greenpeace East Asia, China’s densely populated east coast is a toxic place to live, as it’s also filled with many chemical and industrial plants. Greenpeace found four other chemical centres in the area in close proximity to schools, office blocks and residential areas.
China has one of the biggest chemical markets in the world and it’s likely to continue to grow. It’s also not stringently regulated. According to Greenpeace, policy makers and chemical companies need to adopt the international practice of keeping and maintaining a public database to track the release and transfer of chemicals.
“Making this information publicly available will not only allow
local authorities to make targeted efforts to protect public health from toxic chemicals, but in the case of an emergency, the
firefighters and emergency responders will know exactly what they’re dealing with.
“It will also provide the public with the right to know if they are living next door to a potentially dangerous toxic chemical storage facility,” said a Greenpeace spokesperson.
Category: Winter 2016