School is where children spend majority of their time, other than home. So, what if you found out the school you sent your children to was not safe? Then sending your children to school would become the hardest decision parents would have to make, as it equals to putting children in an environment exposed to dangers on a regular basis.
Among many considerations, the bottom line for school safety is a healthy environment. Nonetheless, the biggest concern for Chinese parents now is the breaking of this bottom line.
On May 9th, a post on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, went viral in just 24 hours. The post was written by a student from the New Ailixiang School of Da’an City in Jilin Province, saying:
“Because the newly-built dormitories and the newly purchased desks and chairs contain excessive amounts of formaldehyde, all the students are coughing, have nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms. The examination results from the First Hospital of Jilin University confirmed that we have formaldehyde poisoning.”
The post also said the students’ parents have asked for help from local government, but their requests were ignored.
Formaldehyde is highly toxic to all animals. It can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. High levels of exposure to formaldehyde may even cause cancer. The new school dormitory started to be used in October of 2015. It was completed in October of 2014, and the interior environment was inspected.
The local government responded that the formaldehyde content in the dorm rooms didn’t exceed the limits, according to the recent inspection results on May 8 of 2016. An expert group was organized overnight to conduct consultation on the case, but the consultation results did not support the diagnosis of formaldehyde poisoning.
The official response suggested student’s symptoms might be due to infectious diseases. Obviously, most Internet users didn’t buy such an explanation, as can be seen in the Weibo comments. One Weibo user teased:
“A new mysterious infectious disease got discovered which only infects students, but not teachers.”
Three weeks before the news broke, the news of a polluted school in Jiangsu Province also garnered wide attention in Weibo. Over 600 middle school students got severely ill because the school was built on a heavily polluted area. The parents petitioned for months to move the school to another location.
For “stability” reasons, the local government rudely suppressed their request and even prohibited the students from the polluted school from taking a health examination at the hospital. It was a lot effort to pretend everything was OK.
Frankly speaking, it worked well till the news was disclosed on Weibo. An Internet user exclaimed that postings on Weibo are more useful than calling for the government departments for help. This saying was verified once again in the formaldehyde case. No matter what the truth turns out to be, the students are now under the spot light.