Cancer villages

Topics: Environment

These days there are various environmental issues that have become very concerning. For years there has already been a lot of discussion about global warming, climate change, deforestation, and pollution be it air, water, or soil. The contaminants that are released into the environment can cause drastic health issues to the human population, making pollution one of the most harmful environmental issues that we face. Many deaths have been linked to contaminated resources in a variety of locations but as noted in Laura Beil’s article, “more than half of the global deaths from air pollution in 2015 occurred in India and China.

”   It is well known that pollution is a huge problem being faced in China. Although the country is globally known as a large economic power—in fact, the country even became the world’s second largest economy in 2010, surpassing Japan (lecture, Mar. 8)—that accomplishment has caused much harm to its environment and population. China has improved their economy through the manufacturing of cheap goods.

With the demand for manufactured goods, many factories have been constructed to meet the demand which has led to a lot of pollution, especially since China uses fossil fuels for energy. As their economy rose, so did their pollution (specifically in the air and water).  China’s pollution—burning fossil fuels in the air and chemical/waste runoffs into the rivers and lakes—has become so severe to the point that it has affected many different areas in the country with an increase of major health issues, such as cancer.

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As a result, these places are now referred to as “Cancer Villages”. Now we must ask, what exactly is a “cancer village”? How does the Chinese government deal with a serious environmental problem? Are they fixing these issues or are they still focused on improving their economy? The following paper will examine these questions by explaining the “cancer village” phenomenon, the response of the Chinese government (past and present), and finally the environmental conservation plans that have been carried out.  Cancer village is the term used to refer to, mainly farming, villages where cancer rates have become extremely high along with water and air pollution that appears to be linked with the deadly disease. These villages are typically located near polluting factories, as noted in Jonathan Kaiman’s article,   and they are the consequences of the industry’s lack of proper waste disposal. In previous years it has been noted, by various sources, that China has more than 400 cancer villages and according to Lee Liu they are located “across 29 of China’s 31 provincial units”,   but in the last three years it has been assumed that the number has increased to at least 500 cancer villages. The pollution that poisons the villages has caused many premature deaths for the residents of varying ages, including young children, with cancer being the main cause. It is highly believed that the high cancer rates are connected to the severe pollution that there have been some studies conducted in various locations. Based on a study by the World Bank, that was observed in The Guardian article by Jonathan Watts, said that “Chinese farmers are almost four times more likely to die of liver cancer and twice as likely to die of stomach cancer than the global average”.   Edward Wong’s article (2013) in the New York Times observed a “study that had drawn a direct connection between pollution of the Huai River and high rates of cancer among people living by the river”. While many people are aware of the pollution in their home, they do not always know how extreme it is. In many villages the residents can see the change of color in the water, sky, and see their crops dying. As addressed in Jonathan Watts’ article, Cui Xiaolong (a cancer village resident) “pointed to the lurid red discharge from the Yinhe paper mill and a yellow trickle below the Peace Technology chemical factory and said that health had declined along with the environment.”   However, it was mentioned by Monica Tan that in 2011, the Greenpeace organization had gone to Xinglong village after becoming aware of its status as a cancer village; there they took measurements of the water discovering “it was hundreds of times over the safe limit for chromium and yet the villagers continued to walk around barefoot and graze the livestock in the contaminated fields”.  The villagers were unaware of the extent of the contamination in their home due to the illegal waste disposals of surrounding factories. In 2010, a documentary called Warriors of Qiugang was released. The film follows the villagers’ fight to change their environment from the pollution caused by the surrounding factories.  This fight had been documented for three years and shows all the struggles and stories of the residents living in Qiugang village. The video points out that despite the many national environmental laws and regulations in China, the enforcement is mainly in the hands of local officials  who usually turn a blind eye when a bribe is offered to them. As a result, this triggered protests to the factories to stop polluting their environment. Qiugang, a village in Anhui Province, is one example of these protests. Of the 1,876 residents, 1,801 had signed a petition “insisting that the factories change their line of production” for the safety of the people and they also sought help from NGOs in Beijing. Finally, in 2009, the factories were being demolished.  However, due to the general lack of concern by many local governments, other cancer villages are not as lucky as Qiugang was. As Wong notes in his article, the villagers are either stopped by the local officials or the local protectionism put in place for factories, because they are the leaders in the production of manufactured goods.  The other challenge that they face is the lack of recognition, from their government, that this is an extreme problem.

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Cancer villages. (2022, May 26). Retrieved from

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