The Dark Side of the Boom
Jonathan Watts reports for the Guardian (via chinadialogue):
Since last year, there has been an explosion of lead poisoning cases close to smelting plants. Studies have shown that communities that recycle electronic waste are exposed to cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardants. Elsewhere, there have been protests against chemical factories that are blamed for carcinogens that enter water supplies and the food chain.
Nationwide, cancer rates have surged since the 1990s to become the nation’s biggest killer. In 2007, the disease was responsible for one in five deaths, up 80% since the start of economic reforms 30 years earlier.
While the government insists it is cleaning up pollution far faster than other nations at a similar dirty stage of development, many toxic industries have simply been relocated to impoverished, poorly regulated rural areas.
Chinese farmers are almost four times more likely to die of liver cancer and twice as likely to die of stomach cancer than the global average, according to study commissioned by the World Bank. The domestic media is increasingly filled with reports of “cancer villages” — clusters of the disease near dirty factories.