Cadmium pollution leads to protests, arrests, factory closure

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 August, 2009, 12:00am

Three officials in Liuyang city , Hunan province were prosecuted last week after being found to be responsible for cadmium pollution that killed at least five people and poisoned more than 500.

The source of the pollution is a factory that claimed to be producing animal-feed products but in 2004 began refining indium, a malleable metal used in flat-screen televisions. The factory had been discharging untreated toxic waste into the area for a few years.

Prior to the prosecutions, 1,000 protesters from Shuangqiao village in Liuyang laid siege to a police station and government office late last month. They were protesting arrests from previous demonstrations and demanding free health checkups and treatment, and compensation for ruined crops.

Some 4,000 residents of the village now depend on imported food and water since soil sample tests in May showed their land and drinking water will remain poisoned for 60 years, according to the South China Morning Post. The Post said the now closed Xianghe Chemical Plant had been producing heavy metals without oversight or safety measures during its five years of operation right up until its closure in June.

So far, 2,888 people who live within 1.2km of the plant have been tested, and 509 have been found to be suffering from high levels of heavy-metal poisoning.