A Glimpse into China’s Cancer Villages
Posted on June 21, 2012
Who said pollution isn’t a serious issue?
Unknown to some in China, the air they breathe when going to school, work, or even playing outside, is slowly killing them instead of giving them life.
In Yunnan, a small province in southwestern China, it was reported that the many residents of about 500 villages are dying from a variety of cancers.
Xing Long, one of the depressed villages in the area, means “prosperous” in English. But because of pollution, it has become the village of the dead.
Xing Long residents used water from the Nanpan river to irrigate their once-rich fields, until a factory was built in 1998 that started dumping chromium waste into the river, thus making all their fields barren.
The eldest son of the Wu household is just one of the victims of the pollution. He died at the age of 15 from leukemia and thymoma.
“When he was a child, he would go out with his grandfather to herd the sheep and the cows,” his mother cried.
“We didn’t know about the danger until we had heard of it on the television,” added his father.
Chromium is a heavy metal used in the industrial world, such as in electroplating. According to the World Health Organization, chromium is a carcinogen, lethal to both humans and animals when used in large amounts.
A representative of Greenpeace said that the acidity of Xing Long’s water is 200 times higher than normal. This means that one’s skin may itch or burn after having only made contact with the water.
“But we have no other choice. That’s our only source,” a Xing Long resident said about the river.
In other villages, farmers are dying from liver cancer. It has also been reported that Chinese farmers are now four times more likely to die of liver cancer than usual.
And all these deaths are believed to be the result of industrialization and the pollution that comes with it.
Though the Chinese government says that it is making serious efforts to address the issue of pollution, it seems that only the big cities are the ones given attention. Meanwhile, the people in the rural and remote areas are being neglected.
“Government officials and the entrepreneurs are friends,” said a journalist. This may be the reason China’s media is reluctant to report about the cries and pleas of the affected people.
“The factory is protected by the government. That’s why their pollution is also protected,” an angry resident of Xing Long village said.
Xing Long villagers also said that they can only wait with worry and see what will happen to them in the days to come.
A lot believe that industrialization brings wealth to a country. What we are oblivious to is that it also comes with a hefty price tag.
In China’s case, the growing number of “cancer villages” and the deaths of many of its citizens are what the country gets in exchange for its wealth.