China’s Harrowing Cancer Villages


Note cancer sufferer Chen Guokang's shockingly yellowed eyes.
Image: Lu Guang/Greenpeace
It’s hard to ignore cancer sufferer Chen Guokang’s shockingly yellowed eyes.

The Chinese village of Yanglingang could perhaps stake a reasonable claim to being one of the deadliest places on Earth. After all, just waking up and breathing there is enough to potentially shorten one’s lifespan – this thanks to the settlement’s position close to a power plant, which ominously belches out clouds of fumes. Re-hydrating, too, seems equally unsafe, for a nearby paper mill tips its waste into the Yangtze river, the village’s principal source of water.

Industrial waste being pumped into the Yellow River.
Image: Lu Guang/Greenpeace
Industrial waste water being pumped into the Yellow River

In fact, before the government allowed the establishment of a post-millennium industrial zone, Yanglingang’s river water had been clean. And yet now billowing smoke stacks blight the landscape, coating nearby structures in ash. Locals attempt to decontaminate their drinking water by means of alum powder, but this still doesn’t mask the chemical sensations on the palate.

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