Heavy Metals Pollute 10% of China's Farmland

A tenth of China’s farmland is seriously tainted by heavy metals, according to a senior government expert. From Reuters:

Wan Bentai, the chief engineer for China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, said a survey of soil pollutants this year found heavy metal from smelter chimneys, water run-off and tailings meant “in total about 10 percent of farmland has striking problems of heavy metal levels exceeding (government) limits,” the Southern Metropolitan Daily reported ….

China’s voracious appetite for the metals has turned heavy metal pollution into a source of widespread public worry and occasional protest. Exposure to lead and other heavy metals can damage nerves, reproductive systems and kidneys, among other health complications, especially among children ….

China is the world’s biggest consumer of refined lead, and battery making accounts for 70 percent of that consumption, which is likely to grow to 4.1 million tons in 2011.

This year has seen a string of factory closures, detentions and suspensions related to lead contamination from battery manufacturing. See also a chinadialogue report on illegal chromium dumping and Paul Mooney’s overview of heavy metal contamination and its human impact, via CDT.