“Cancer Villages” throughout China are turning up ill as a result of perpetual exposure to arsenic


Hills of radioactive phosphogypsum surround the village of Liuchong. – Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

Three years ago, state-run CCTV, China’s most popular television news organization, broadcast a half-hour documentary about the health problems of villagers here. The report said 20 villagers had died of cancer likely caused by Dasheng’s pollution. The village doctor said out of 300 villagers who live near Dasheng Chemical’s factory, 30 have died from cancer and five more will likely die soon.

“Patients come to see me every day because they feel weak and dizzy. I estimate 80 to 90 percent of the people in this village are suffering from low white blood cell counts or anemia.”

The doctor agreed to speak for this report under condition of anonymity because Dasheng Chemical’s owner, a man named Zhong Shoubin, has threatened villagers about talking to outsiders about his company’s pollution, the doctor said.

“He has told us that if we say anything bad about his company, he’ll have us killed,” the doctor said.




Folks unfortunate enough to live in so-called “cancer villages” throughout China are turning up ill as a result of perpetual exposure to arsenic, indicate new reports. Industrial pollution from years of chemical mining have poisoned entire villages, leaving residents stricken with everything from skin lesions to cancer.

One such resident is Xiong Demin, an elderly man from the Heshan village in China’s Hunan province who developed cancer after working in local mines for more than three decades. According to Reuters, Demin and his wife both developed the condition, which they say was caused by the mining and processing of realgar, or “ruby sulfur,” throughout the area.

Often used as a color pigment and in the production of fireworks, realgar is composed of arsenic sulfide, which has been linked to lung and other forms of cancer. Despite its attractive, reddish color, realgar is highly poisonous to humans, particularly when exposure is ongoing over the course of many years.



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