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China: School Built Near Toxic Waste Dump Injures More Than 600 Students

(Image:  Matthew Allen Hecht via  flickr/ CC0 1.0)

When a political system is corrupt from within, the people who pay for it the most are usually the vulnerable groups — children, women, and poor people. From the tofu schools in the Sichuan earthquake to the recent scandal of ineffective vaccines, the younger generation in China are really suffering for the mistakes made by the adults.

On April 17 it was disclosed by China’s government-run media that over 500 students became ill due to the pollution near a school in Changzhou city of Jiangsu Province. The school, Changzhou Foreign Language School, a local middle school with a reputation of good quality education, was moved to a newly built campus in September 2015.

Not long after moving to the new campus, Jin, a 13-year-old student, suffered a break out of rashes and had severe headaches, but couldn’t find the cause. In January 2016, his parents transferred him to another school.

The photos of the medical records and abnormal symptoms on skins of the students. (Image: Weibo.com)

Photos of the medical records of the students abnormal skin conditions. (Image: Weibo.com)

Including Jin, 641 students from Changzhou Foreign Language School had developed different symptoms and adverse reactions since the school was moved to the new site. Among them, 493 students were diagnosed with dermatitis, eczema, bronchitis, blood abnormalities, leukopenia, and other abnormal symptoms, according to Wangyi News.

Although no specific figures were disclosed, it was reported that some students were diagnosed with lymphoma, leukemia, and other malignant diseases.

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Workers setting up devices to detect pollutants. (Image: Weibo.com)

Parents of the students locked their suspicions onto the land near the new campus. The land north of the school was previously the location of three chemical plants. One of the chemical plants, Changlong Chemical Co., reportedly use to discharge toxic waste water directly into the river, and secretly bury hazardous waste underground.

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The land was originally the location of three chemical plants. (Image: Weibo.com)

The education department of Changzhou said the selection of the school location was done with the Environmental Impact Assessment (E.I.A), and supposed to meet the standards for a school site. However, construction of the school began 7 months before the E.I.A report was approved.

After many students showed physical symptoms, their parents employed a testing company to test the underground water, soil, and air of Changzhou Foreign Language School. A number of contaminants were detected in the inspection.

A staff from Changzhou's Environment Department inspecting the surrounding environment of the Changzhou Foreign Language School. (Image: Weibo.com)

A staff from Changzhou’s Environment Department inspecting the surrounding environment of the Changzhou Foreign Language School. (Image: Weibo.com)

The test results of the air of the classrooms, dormitories, and libraries of the school indicated pollutants such as acetone, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and methylene chloride. Experts say that these pollutants are the same as the pollutants found in the contaminated land nearby.

The distance between the school and the chemical plant location was less than 330 feet, however, the required distance between a residential area and polluted zone should be 1,000 feet.

In January 2016, the parents petitioned to move the school to a new location. However, the peaceful petition was suppressed by the local government. In addition to the riot policemen, the local government even sent out personnel to parents’ work place, threatening them that they would lose the job if they continued to petition.

Parents were raising banners to petition for the change of school site.

Parents holding banners to petition for the school site to change location. (Image: Weibo.com)

Parents were raising banners to petition for the change of school site. (Image: Weibo.com)

Parents protesting for the school site to change, however, the government sent out riot police to stop them. (Image: Weibo.com)

Months later, the news finally broke in the international media, perhaps thanks to the Panama paper. How is it that the focus on one scandal can be easily diverted to cover up another scandal? This is the vicious, endless cycle in China.

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