Beijing, 18 March, 2016 – The news that nearly 500 pupils in Changzhou Foreign Languages School have fallen ill, some diagnosed with cancer, most likely due to extremely high levels of groundwater and soil pollution in the school’s vicinity, is yet another reminder of the seriousness of China’s hazardous chemical pollution. Moreover, the fact that the school earlier this year claimed to have solved the pollution problem points to the gaping holes in hazardous chemical management in China.
“The tragedy that has occurred in Changzhou shows just how dangerously lax China’s hazardous chemical management is,” said Greenpeace East Asia toxics campaign manager, Ada Kong.
The Changzhou Foreign Languages School is located adjacent to a former chemicals plant. The environmental evaluation conducted before the construction of the school suggested that pollution was serious and advised that schools, housing or other public facilities should not be constructed in the area. However, the evaluation only included normal pollutants. It did not assess the presence of other hazardous chemicals related to the site’s former use. A more comprehensive evaluation could have exposed the severity of the risks of building on the site
The school was also reportedly using groundwater that was deemed unfit for human use by the environmental evaluation.
The chemicals reportedly found in groundwater and soil at the site include chloroform and benzene, both of which are listed on China’s ‘Hazardous Chemicals List’ and are known to have serious health, including carcinogenic properties, and environmental impacts.
Greenpeace calls on the government to investigate the precise origins of this incident and to establish a comprehensive hazardous chemicals management system to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.