Did These Fish in Tianjin Drown, or Were They Poisoned?

Greenpeace detected trace amounts of cyanide contamination in the river in Tianjin. (Image:
Greenpeace detected trace amounts of cyanide contamination in the river in Tianjin. (Image:

It has been one week since the deadly explosion of hazardous chemicals in a warehouse at Tianjin, and now there are thousands of dead fish washing up along the shores of the Haihe River that runs through the city. The shocking view of the dead fish has only intensified the concerns of local residents about contamination after the leaking of the toxic chemicals from the explosion.

Massive fish die-off. (Image:

Massive fish die-off. (Image:

Why are all these fish dying? What is the real cause? Since the dead fish were found only 4 miles away from the blast site and only seven days after the explosion, it is hard to disassociate the two events, or conclude that they are completely independent events. The warehouse that belonged to Ruihai International Logistics was storing over 700 tons of highly toxic substances, mainly sodium cyanide, when the explosion occurred. The 700 tons of sodium cyanide was completely gone at the site of the explosion, leaving a huge hole instead.

The huge smoke at the explosion site. (Image:

The huge clouds of smoke at the explosion site. (Image:

Sodium cyanide is a water-soluble solid, and is highly toxic to humans. Upon exposure to water or high temperatures, it can form the dangerous gas hydrogen cyanide, according to Scientific American.

Large amounts of dead fish covered the shore of Haihe river. (Image:

Large amounts of dead fish covered the shore of Haihe River. (Image:

To reduce any public fear, the Chinese authorities immediately investigated the cause of the dead fish. Deng Xiaowen, who is head of Tianjin’s environment monitoring center, reported that no toxic levels of cyanide have been detected in the water samples that were taken from the Tianjin river where a large number of dead fish were spotted after last week’s explosions, according to Sina News.

Dead fish in a river of Tianjin. (Image:

Dead fish in a river of Tianjin. (Image:

The officials also detected that the level of dissolved oxygen in the water was too low due to eutrophication, which means that the fish died because of lack of oxygen in the water, Deng said. The massive fish die-off has happened in the summer of previous years, in other words, thousands of fish were not poisoned to death, but actually were “drowned” to death, he added.

What’s interesting is, before the Chinese authorities publicized the investigation results, Chinese Internet users had already accurately forecast the official conclusion of the dead fish phenomenon: “Don’t panic, the fish were just drowned. Don’t blame anything on the government!”


Greenpeace was collecting the water sample. (Image:

Greenpeace collecting water samples. (Image:

On the other hand, the non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace had reported that they detected trace amounts of cyanide contamination in the area where the large fish die-off was.

Nonetheless, the results of the Greenpeace tests were soon deleted on Weibo.

Gotta love the Chinese censorship.

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