China launches pollution
probe after hundreds of students fall sick
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[April 18, 2016]
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Authorities in
China have launched an investigation after a report that hundreds of
children attending a language school built near a polluted former
industrial site developed health problems, including cancer, state news
agency Xinhua reported on Monday.
The municipal government of Changzhou, about 100 km (60 miles)
northwest of Shanghai, said that since December students and faculty
at the Changzhou Foreign Languages School had been complaining about
an "unusual smell" emitting from three former chemical plants
nearby, Xinhua said.
But a report by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV)
late on Sunday suggested that the problems were much more serious,
and the case has raised an outcry online.
Of 641 students from the school who underwent health checks recently
493 were found to have conditions ranging from chronic coughs,
headaches and blood abnormalities, to lymphoma and leukemia, CCTV
Widespread environmental pollution is a dark legacy of the
growth-at-all-costs development path that China took since the
1970s, and it is increasingly a source of social unrest.
The ruling Communist Party in recent years has dedicated more
resources and attention to cleaning the country's polluted air,
water and soil, but the severity of the problem will be felt for
decades to come.
Parents of the students in Changzhou had suspected for months that
their children's' ailments were linked to the school, which had
opened on the site in September, and called for it to be moved
elsewhere, CCTV said in a report online.
Photographs posted on microblogs show what appear to be dozens of
people staging protests with banners calling for the school to
relocate. It is unclear when the pictures were taken.
"In China, only the lives of people with power and money have any
value!! The lives of common people are buy-one-get-10-free!!
Right?!! Rubbish government officials!!" one person said in a
Another interjected: "Emigrate, quickly. That is no place to hang
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Xinhua quoted the municipal authorities as saying that a soil
restoration project at site was underway at the time of the
"An environmental-expert panel concluded in February that the
program had achieved the expected results and that the air quality
meets national standards," it said.
The CCTV report said previous environmental assessments had found
extremely high levels of contamination in the soil and water at the
former industrial site. Surveys commissioned by concerned parents of
students found the water, soil and air on the school campus were
also contaminated, it said.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Additional reporting by Twinnie Siu in
HONG KONG; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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