China’s pollution-driven ‘cancer villages’
Decades of water pollution have taken a fatal toll on the citizens of China. For several years, cancer rates in Chinese villages near polluted rivers and factories have exceeded acceptable limits; society has therefore deemed these areas ‘cancer villages.’ Hazardous chemical pollution has resulted in an array of environmental disasters—not only ‘cancer villages,’ but also severe potable water shortages.
How life-threatening is China’s water pollution crisis?
A 2011 study conducted by the Chinese Ministry of Environment Protection and the Chinese Academy of Engineering revealed that over 90% of the groundwater in cities was polluted. As 70% of China’s population relies on groundwater for drinking water, 64 of 118 major cities had critically contaminated groundwater supplies. Another shocking statistic—in China, 320 million people currently do not have access to clean drinking water, and 190 million people are drinking water that is severely contaminated with hazardous chemicals.
According to Greenpeace East Asia, Chinese factories are able to directly discharge their wastewater into rivers and lakes due to the nation’s poor environmental regulations and weak enforcement. Unfortunately, water pollution is a leading factor of the high rates of cancer in areas within close proximity to factories, also known as ‘cancer villages,’ as aforementioned. China’s biggest killer in terms of illness, cancer has demonstrated an 80% increase in mortality among its victims.
Fortunately, China’s critical water pollution issue has recently received significant attention by the nation’s Environment Ministry, which is currently advocating greater reform. The Environment Ministry has developed a written set of regulations, which outlines China’s restrictions on the use of 58 types of toxic chemicals, many of which are produced and consumed in China. This document also draws attention to China’s lack of chemical pollution control and insufficient pollution monitoring by enterprises and authorities.