Toxic Chemicals Leave Over 500 Students Seriously Ill

| by Sheena Vasani
One students' infected armOne students' infected arm

A Chinese school built upon toxic foundations has captured international attention after many of its students fell seriously ill, with some even getting cancer.

Doctors estimate around 493 of the 641 students from the Changzhou Foreign Language School have developed serious illnesses, Mashable reports.

These include dermatitis, eczema, blood abnormalities and even leukemia.

"When talking to other parents, we found that almost all the pupils had similar symptoms, and we could all smell the stench," said the father of one pupil, the South China Morning Post reports. "Then we began to suspect [the symptoms] were caused by pollution."

Officials blame the illnesses on the fact the facility was built upon a site that previously housed three chemical factories.

One of these factories was even used to discharge sewage into a dried-up canal not too far away from the campus.

Although the site was investigated prior to the students starting school, reports suggested only that the school not use the groundwater as the “soil and groundwater in the area has been polluted.”

Those investigations revealed the water to hold the likes of manganese and fluoride.

Yet it was later revealed the rest of the area contained toxic compounds and heavy metals.

Environmental reports reveal the area contained at least one carcinogen that was nearly 100,000 times over the safety limit.

Organic pollutants such as chlorobenzene, were found at the site, as were traces of mercury, lead, and cadmium.

Former factory workers explain the dangerous materials were never disposed of properly; instead, they were hid in some plants to save time and money.

Yet despite the fact hundreds of young students have fallen seriously ill, local education authorities refuse to relocate somewhere safer. Instead, they chose only to end the autumn semester earlier.

They then proceeded to place a layer of clay over the toxic site, instead of actually treating it.

Some say this case merely reflects China’s larger problem with inadequate oversight of hazardous materials, The New York Times reports.

“It’s very important for the central government to weigh in on this case,” Ma Jun, a prominent environmentalist, said. “I just hope that we won’t stop at these individual cases. We need a comprehensive review.”

Sources: Mashable, South China Morning Post and The New York Times / Photo credit: Sina Weibo via Mashable 

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