Ten Percent of China is a Steaming Toxic Metal Land Dump:
If you live in China, the ground beneath your feet is probably polluted with heavy metal. We don’t mean the stuff that’s leaking out of Beijing’s awful rock bars. On Monday, Wan Bentai, the chief engineer for China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, stated that about 100,000 of China’s 1.22 million square kilometers, or about ten percent, of farmland is now officially polluted by lead, mercury, cancer-causing cadmium and other harmful heavy metals in levels that go above and beyond global standards. China’s rapid industrialization has grown over the past three decades, and today it is the world’s largest consumer of refined lead, with battery production making up a majority of that consumption. The consequences of this mega-expanding manufacturing system have been enormous. As Zhang Jianxin, a researcher with the Hunan Planning Institute of Land and Resources explains, “From a historical perspective, we see a growing number of land pollution cases associated with heavy metals in China over the past three decades.” Among these metals which pollute land in the form of run-off are lead, mercury, and cadmium. Human exposure to this industrial cocktail can lead to stunted growth as well as damage to the nerves, kidneys, and reproductive systems. These symptoms have been seen at increasing rates in entire villages around China for the past few years. Metal pollution is by no means new on the environmental front, but with the news that ten percent of land in China is now affected, what remains startling is China’s failure to adress the issue. In 2011 alone there have been eleven reported cases of metal poisonings on a village scale, nine of those cases involving lead in the blood. According to a 75-page report issued by Human Rights Watch in June, Chinese officials have reacted to reports of lead poisoning in areas across the country by imposing arbitrary limits for blood testing, failing to shut down harmful illegal operations or enforce waste regulations and encouraging people to eat foods like apples, eggs, milk and garlic. China’s government has since released a plan to cut heavy metal pollution in certain areas by 15 percent by 2015. Unfortunately, when a tenth of the country is filled with deformity-inducing chemical waste, a slight reduction in pollution in a few areas just doesn’t seem like much.