A CCTV News investigation at a school in East China’s Jiangsu province have revealed severe contamination in the soil and groundwater and may be the cause of serious illnesses among nearly 500 teenagers who attend the school.
CCTV’s Jiang Shaoyi reports.
News report reveals contamination at school that may have caused 500 illnessesA CCTV News investigation at a school in East China's Jiangsu province have revealed severe contamination in the soil and groundwater and may be the cause of serious illnesses among nearly 500 teenagers who attend the school.
Since late 2015, students at Changzhou Foreign Languages School in Changzhou have been diagnosed with a variety of illnesses after their school relocated to a site that once held three chemical factories.
Illnesses included dermatitis, bronchitis, and blood abnormalities. Some were even diagnosed with leukemia.
The school moved to the former chemical plant site in Sept. 2015, following approval from local authorities. Once students started reporting illnesses, the school closed for testing, but resumed shortly after the school’s leadership said results from environmental tests showed no abnormalities.
The incident gained online traction with parents and the public condemning the incompetence of local authorities and their supervision inefficiency.
An investigation by CCTV News found that preliminary results show severe contamination in the surrounding environment that had been overlooked during previous assessments.
In a series of interviews with CCTV, environmental and health experts said the soil and groundwater at the school contained toxic substances and heavy metals. The level of chlorobenzene, a carcinogenic, reached almost 100,000 times the legal limit.
“There are absolutely carcinogens found in the tests… Long exposure to these pollutants will lead to leukemia and other tumors,” Peking University Public Health Professor Pan Xiaochuan said.
“The high morbidity at the school, in such a short time, must be linked to the pollutants.”
The CCTV investigation also revealed that in Dec. 2014, the chemical factory where the school is now located was fined 160 million yuan ($24.7 million) for contamination, and that the pollutants found at the school matched those found in samples of chemical discharge from the previous factory.
While education authorities said the site passed inspection, the school had a history of poor environmental evaluations. The initial environmental assessment of the school’s relocation did not include data on pesticide-related pollutants. Subsequent tests also missed examination of key industrial contaminating substances.
Frightened parents even began delivering water and homemade food, doubting the safety of the school cafeteria. Parents also hired a testing company to conduct further assessments.
Many have criticized the local government’s failure in recognizing health hazards at the site as well as the school’s decision to not move students to a different location, and the any potential risks the pollutants might inflict on the region.
Heated discussions raged on China’s major microblogging platform Sina Weibo, with a slew of posts voicing anger at those behind the large-scale tragedy.
“Whoever approved the construction of the project should be held responsible!” said Weibo user @onionstwo.
“An apparent lack of supervision! It explains how irresponsible local authorities are! They don’t even take the health of minors seriously… In addition to punishing those deemed culpable, should related government departments not reflect on themselves?” said Weibo user @Guohuaidong.
“I hope it could be thoroughly investigated to prevent similar incidents in the future,” said Weibo user @Yongneidongjieshequ.
Responding to concerns, the local Changzhou government tested the site in February and March and found that the levels were in line with national safety levels, but following the CCTV News report, the government said that they would send in a new investigation team to look into potential contamination.
China’s Ministry of Environment has also initiated an investigation into the case and reiterated its “zero-tolerance” towards any possible contamination.
Story by CCTV News