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Thousands of homes are being built on contaminated plots of land throughout China – and hardly anybody knows about it. Gao Shengke and Wang Kai wrote an investigative report for Caijing magazine that uncovered the fact that the government is allowing new homes to be constructed on the sites of relocated and unremediated chemical and pesticide factory plants that previously leaked carcinogenic and mutagenic pollutants into the soil and groundwater.

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Workers are building Kangquan New City in Guanzhuang village, Chaoyang District – a former factory used by the Ministry of Railways to build anti-corrosive railway sleepers. The Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences conducted an environmental survey of the plot and that found serious groundwater and soil pollution, yet they made none of this negative information available to the public.

In Beijing alone, 142 factories were relocated between 2001 and 2005, representing 8.78 square meters of land that will be reused as earth for new homes, but only eight of them have been identified as polluted and subsequently cleaned up.

These days “the number of plots of land that have been identified as polluted still hasn’t reached 100,” Jiang Lin, associate director of the Beijing Municipal Research Institute of Environmental Protection, told Caijing.

For a sense of the potential health impact of building new homes on toxic wastelands, Caijing revealed several cases where construction workers have fallen ill while digging up land containing heavy metals, petrochemicals, organic pollutants, electronic waste and other harmful pollutants. In July 2006, six construction workers fell into a coma while digging up contaminated earth at a former chemical plant in Guoxiang, near the south ring road in Suzhou, Jiangsu.

Gao Shengke and Wang Kai won a best investigation prize for their reporting.

Via The Guardian