In 2008, Beijing shut down all nearby factories and ordered half of its cars off the road to reduce air pollution for the Summer Olympic Games. Despite that, athletes still complained about air that burned their lungs and nasal passages.
Earlier this year, the air quality scale at the U.S. embassy in Beijing hit 755. Since the maximum level is supposed to be 500, the level of air pollution in China is literally off the charts.
Scientists now believe pollution to be responsible for the huge surge in the infertility rate among China’s women. Indeed, the infertility rate among Chinese women rose to 12.5% in 2010, from just 3% two decades ago.
But it’s not just air.
Swiss and Chinese researchers recently warned that almost 20 million people across China are at a high risk for poisoning because they use arsenic-laden groundwater.
China’s rivers, dumping ground for industrial and personal waste, are also polluted, with the water of some rivers inky black.
The latest is the discovery of 220,000 pounds of dead fish, poisoned from ammonia, in the Fuhe River in central China.
Josh Lieberman reports for International Science Times, Sept. 4, 2013:
Around 220,000 pounds of dead fish have surfaced along a 19-mile stretch of the Fuhe River in Wuhan, China. Officials said the fish deaths were caused by a local chemical plant dumping pollutants into the river.
The Hubei province’s environmental protection department found ammonialevels which were “far in excess of the national standard” at the drain outlet of the chemical company, Hubei Shuanghuan Science and Technology Stock.Ammonia levels downstream from the plant were as high as 196 milligrams per liter. The World Health Organization says that 12 milligrams per liter is natural in surface water, with safe drinking water containing 0.02 milligrams per liter of ammonia.
An environmental official identified only as Xiao told Agence France-Press that most of the dead fish had been cleared from the river. According to Xiao, the fish were mostly carp, chub and snakehead.
The Hubei Shuanghuan plant has been citied four times for environmental violations since 2008, according to the New York Times. Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a nongovernmental organization that tracks pollution, said that the plant has been told to correct its problems after each violation, but is still not practicing proper procedures.
“Each time it was ordered to be corrected, but this demonstrates thatenforcement is way too weak and the cost of violations way too low,” Ma said.
The pollution of the Fuhe River by Hubei Shuanghuan is a blow to Huanghualao, a nearby village where 1,600 residents are involved in commercial fishing. Wang Sanqing, the village’s Communist Party secretary, said that the village could lose up to 70,000 yuan a day, or $11,400.
China has long struggled with environmental protection and food safety issues. Earlier this year, 16,000 dead pigs were found in the tributaries of the Huangpu River, polluting residents’ tap water. And in July, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claimed that China’s air pollution was so bad that it reduces the life expectancy of almost half the country’s population by about 5.5 years.
Dr. Eowyn is the Editor of Fellowship of the Minds and a regular contributor to The D.C. Clothesline.