‘Toxic’ running track leaves 100 Chinese schoolchildren sick

  • Scores of youngsters need hospital treatment for nosebleeds, dizziness in weeks after track is installed
  • Poisonous problem has been around for years, but authorities yet to provide a solution
PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 10:39pm

More than 100 children at a primary school in eastern China have been treated for nosebleeds, vomiting, rashes and dizziness since a new running track was installed there in September, according to a local newspaper report.

About 30 pupils at Sanmen Experimental Primary School in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, required hospital treatment for such problems last month alone, The Economic Observer reported on Friday.

Parents said the deterioration in their children’s health coincided with the arrival of the new track, which gave off a foul smell as soon as it was laid.

Are China’s toxic running tracks still poisoning its children?

“Jiajia began having frequent nosebleeds soon after the start of term in September,” a woman surnamed Zhang was quoted as saying about her daughter who goes to the school.

Another parent, Wang Li, said: “I looked up several reports on the internet, and the symptoms the children were experiencing, like rashes and nosebleeds, were the same as those mentioned in other reports about toxic running tracks.”

Many parents had complained to the school and some had withdrawn their children from class, the report said.

China has a long history of children suffering health problems after being exposed to the toxic chemicals used in the manufacture of running tracks.

In September, there was a spate of incidents in north China’s Hebei province and in the central city of Wuhan, and between 2014 and 2016, pupils at 32 schools across the country reported health problems that were linked to running tracks.

The education ministry said in November it was updating national standards for the construction of school recreational grounds, which would ban the use of low-quality synthetic materials and toxic chemicals.

Synthetic running tracks made of industrial waste like rubber tyres and cables, state TV says

The materials used in the track in Taizhou were tested three times between September and November, and found to contain levels of phthalates, formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds above the permitted limits.

Normally found in household cleaning products and aerosol sprays, volatile organic compounds can cause eye, nose and throat irritation as well as headaches and nausea. Overexposure can damage the nervous system, liver and kidneys.

Phthalates are toxic to the human endocrine and reproductive systems, while formaldehyde causes irritation to the mucous membranes.

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Without mentioning the alleged toxicity, a notice from the Sanmen County Education Bureau said the running track at the Taizhou school was removed on November 19.

Zhang Bin, head of the bureau’s infrastructure department, denied the track had failed safety tests. “The situation is still undergoing an investigation,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

The school organised two rounds of medical examinations for its pupils in November and December. Of the more than 1,000 students tested, 578 were found to have blood abnormalities, the report said, without offering further analysis of the results.

Staff at the school could not be reached for comment.