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The Bad Earth
With Smog Above and Toxins Below, China Suffers

Nearly 20 percent of China’s arable land is polluted, according to a recent government report—double the level previously thought. Officials are concerned about the health ramifications of soil contaminated by cadmium, one of the most pervasive of the pollutants: A heavy metal, cadmium is toxic to humans, causing skeletal and kidney damage. Southern China has suffered the worst of this ground pollution, with cadmium levels rising by over 50 percent during the last 60 years. This is a major human health concern: Rice grown in contaminated areas could pose risks to those who consume it. Worse, as Caixin reports, there’s very little the government can do to leach these pollutants from the soil:

“Once soil has been polluted, it’s very difficult to restore it by cutting off pollution sources alone,” the report said. “Overall, the costs for cleaning up polluted soil are high. It takes a long time. And it’s very difficult.”

The report continued: “Because it’s hard for heavy metals to degrade, it’s impossible to completely remove heavy metals from the soil. Many organic pollutants in the soil need a long time to fully degrade.”

And it’s not just cadmium that has officials worried:

In addition to cadmium, samples were found to have various amounts of mercury, arsenic, copper, lead, chromium, zinc and nickel. Cadmium was the most prevalent toxin, found in 7 percent of all samples. Nickel, the second-most common pollutant, was detected in 4.8 percent of the samples. Arsenic was third, found in 2.7 percent of the soil plugs studied.

These pollutants found their way into Chinese soil through a variety of vectors. Some precipitated out of China’s toxic smog, while others came from industrial wastewater. Tailpipe emissions from China’s ever-growing fleet of autos also aren’t helping things.

Like air pollution, soil pollution is in many ways the downside of China’s unrestricted growth. But unlike air pollution, soil pollution doesn’t dissipate when cars are taken off the road or coal-fired factories are replaced by nuclear reactors. This is a nightmarish problem, and it isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

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  • Corlyss

    Forget the environmental stuff. China is still a tyranny with a flaccid and supine populace. The only ones who are not political no-accounts have already emigrated to the US, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Australia. I wish we could get more of them.

    • f1b0nacc1

      As always, you are right on target. One of the greatest strengths of the US (and our secret weapon that we hide in plain sight) is that we skim the cream off of most of the rest of the world….

      • Corlyss

        We are a nation of the perpetually dissatisfied . . . 😉

  • rheddles

    Did we suffer comparable pollution? If not why are the Chinese suffering it? Certainly the processes of 75 years ago were far more polluting than those of today even in China, simply because of ignorance. Or is it because we polluted the Atlantic instead of the mid west thanks to prevailing winds?

    • f1b0nacc1

      The scale of production in China today absolutely dwarfs the processes of 75 years ago. More to the point, the Chinese regularly employ production techniques that are far, far worse than anything the West engaged in even during our worst years. One of the (many) downsides of a totalitarian police state is that, when linked to a planned economy, virtually anything that ups the production numbers will be undertaken, regardless of the consequences.

      • Corlyss

        And let’s not forget that the Chinese open monthly one or more new coal-fired plants (which is why the Greens effort to dominate US energy policy is not about AGW or US pollution – it is about something else entirely, like controlling the economy). At the end of WW 2 US population was something on the order of 150 mil. That was probably our greatest period of pollution, and the pollution was not limited to the US – the war caused enough pollution to affect northern hemisphere temps for the duration. Compare that to the size of the Chinese population today and its projected increase for the foreseeable future.

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