Deadly legacy, June 27

27 Jun 2014

Mainland China has many so-called cancer villages - placed blighted by life-threatening industrial pollution. One such place is Heshan village in Hunan province. Mines and chemical plants mushroomed there from the 1950s until 2011, when they were shut down due to the pollution problem. They were mining and processing a substance called realgar, which causes arsenic pollution. Even though the plants were closed, dust and run-off from arsenic plagues the area to this day, destroying crops and poisoning people. The villagers say that 157 people have died from cancer in the past two decades and 190 are suffering from the disease in a village with just 1,500 inhabitants. One victim is Xiong Demin, who worked for 32 years in a realgar plant. His wife is also stricken with cancer. They were both given 10,000 yuan (HK$12,570) in compensation, but it was not enough to pay for even one round of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Reuters sent a photographer to the village to check out current conditions.