China’s ‘cancer village’ draws unwelcome attention

August 19th, 2011 - 11:59 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 19 (IANS) A village in China’s southwestern Yunnan province, where a chemical plant has discharged chromium slag for the last 10 years, is today known as a “cancer village”. It has witnessed 11 deaths due to cancer since 2002.

Luliang County Heping chemical plant drew media attention recently after it piped 5,000 tonnes of chromium tailings near a local reservoir that feeds one of China’s largest rivers, Shanghai Daily reported.

People can contract lung cancer when inhaling compounds that contain chromium, while chromium in drinking water can also cause cancers.

Located near the chemical plant is this Xinglong village. As per officials, at least 14 people have suffered from cancer in last 10 years here, China Central Television reported.

Some villagers put the figure of people affected by cancer in last decade at least 30.

Some advance-staged lung cancer patients here have been following a traditional folk remedy and eating over 50 bedbugs regularly to relieve themseleves of the illness.

“I have four friends who caught cancers in recent years and three of them have died… the rate is too high,” a villager said.

Villagers are worried that their relatives or they may develop cancers, while people in neighbouring counties dare not buy fruit or vegetables from this village, the villager added.

“We have complained to the county government for numerous times, but they said they could find no evidence to prove the chemical plant was the main cause,” said another villager.

The chemical plant was closed after the recent water contamination scandal. But the chromium pile is yet to be removed.

Built around 2000, the plant set up a yard to hold chromium slag about two kilometres from the village. The pile was about 80 cms tall and surrounded by a brick wall.

“An increasing number of villagers caught cancers, including intestinal, lung and liver, after the plant was built near the village,” a villager said.

“The nearby hospitals have received 14 cancer patients, 11 of whom have died, from 2002 to 2010 in the village,” said Zhang Xin, deputy director of Luliang’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Polluted water in the Chachong reservoir has been blamed for the death of 77 livestock so far.

The chemical plant is one of Asia’s largest producers of chromium sulfate, a chemical leather tanning agent, Xinhua reported.

Some of the polluted water in the reservoir has already been processed and drained into the Nanpan River. This river forms the headwaters of the Pearl River, a major river that flows through southern China.

–Indo-Asian New Service

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