"Yanglingang residents count their home as one of China's "cancer villages" – small communities near polluting factories where cancer rates have soared far above the national average. Chinese media, academics and NGOs estimate that the country is home to 459 of them, spread across every province except far-western Qinghai and Tibet.
New cases seem to emerge monthly, each a painful reminder that China's past three decades of breakneck economic growth have carried a tremendous human cost. Yanglingang is home to only a few hundred people and at least 11 have died of cancer since 2003. Xie's neighbour, Liu Shudong, is dying of oesophageal cancer. Another neighbour, Wang Jinlan, died of breast cancer in 2010. Last year, stomach cancer claimed his friend's 30-year-old wife.
In February, the ministry of environmental protection mentioned cancer villages in its latest five-year plan – the only ministry-level acknowledgement of the issue since it was first reported in 1998. Chinese NGOs and activists hailed the report as a much-needed step towards environmental transparency. Yet interviews in three cancer villages across two provinces revealed that many central and local authorities continue to treat the issue as they long have: with denial, intimidation and silence.
Even the environmental ministry's acknowledgement was a mistake, said Chen Wanqing, deputy head of China's national cancer registry. The ministry has been reprimanded.
Health and environmental officials organised a joint meeting during the National People's Congress, a political gathering in March to renounce the report's wording.They sent missives to provincial officials urging them to restrict usage of the term in local media.
"This is a medical issue – it can't be acknowledged from outside the ministry of health," Chen said. "The statement was not correct, or not appropriate."
However, the link between pollution and poor health is well established. Cancer mortality rates in China have risen 80% over the past 30 years, making it the country's leading cause of death. In cities, toxic air is a primary suspect; in the countryside, it's the water. More than 70% of the country's rivers and lakes are polluted, according to government reports; almost half may contain water that is unfit for human contact.
"Fundamentally, the situation isn't getting any better," said Liu Lican, a Guangzhou-based journalist who has published a book about cancer villages. Pollution-related cancer, he said, can elude detection for years. "So even if the cancer was caused by pollution that's already gone, maybe gradually more and more of these villages will emerge."...
Despite abundant anecdotal evidence for China's profusion of cancer villages, scientific proof has been elusive. When Wu Yixiu, toxics campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, first visited Yanglingang in 2010, she assumed that establishing a causal connection between its pollution and cancer problems would be fairly straightforward – its population is so tiny, the disease so widespread, the pollution so caustic. "It's unimaginable that their health will not be affected by the quality of this water," she said.
Yet there are too many specific chemicals involved and too many types of cancer; diagnoses are spread over too many years. "You need to establish the fact that it's a certain chemical that's causing certain cancers, and this chemical is being discharged from this very factory," she said. "This would require years of observation and tracing disease records."...
Government-approved researchers have visited Wuli, but most seem keen to debunk Wei's claims....They have tested the water, but refuse to publicise their results. After Wuli received a flurry of media attention in early April, local authorities threatened residents with unspecified consequences for their outspokenness....
Petitioning was useless, he said. The county environmental bureau denied the cancer rate was a problem, and the town courthouse would not hear their case.
Thugs detained the farmers near a higher court in Funing County and followed them to the highest provincial court in Nanjing – where the lawsuit was ultimately discarded.
Then in 2010, without giving a reason, the factory closed. Wheat and rice harvests, which markets once refused to buy, are sellable again. Villagers have accepted the status quo; in any case, they've run out of alternatives. "No matter how much we talk about this, they won't compensate us," Shu said. "So we don't talk about it any more.""
9/17/13, "China Has over 200 “Cancer Villages” due to Water Pollution: Expert," China-wire.org, Caijing
"Heavily-polluted underground water system has resulted in the existence of over 200 “cancer villages” across China – small communities where cancer rates have soared far above the national average, a water expert said.
55 percent of monitored water stations report polluted underground water, mostly in provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan and Yunan, Wang Hao, a fellow with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told a forum held by Cajing on Tuesday.
More than 120 residents were diagnosed with cancer in a cancer village in the northern part of Tianjin city, said Wang, who also director of a water resource institution at China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research.
China is in desperate need to treat polluted water, Wang said, suggesting that more advanced techniques should be adopted to reduce the cost of sewage treatment, and companies shall be given harsher punishment for illegal emissions.
Earlier in the year, the Ministry of Environment Protection said in a statement that toxic chemicals had caused man environmental and social problems, including the emergence of cancer villages."
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