06/23/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Arsenic, fluoride, iodine: more than 100 million Chinese drink poisoned water

Data presented by a state-run newspaper: about 21 million people already suffering from serious illnesses. Other 87 million are at risk. The numbers are roughly the same as 10 years ago. The government spends billions of yuan, but state bureaucracy and inefficiency make this provision unnecessary.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Tens of millions of Chinese, especially in the northern areas of the country, have been poisoned over the years by the water supplied by the national system. An expert from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed "unsafe" levels of fluoride and arsenic in the water. About 21 million people are currently suffering from diseases caused by this excessive exposure, while other 87 million are at risk.

The data was published by the Oriental Outlook magazine linked to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. The expert cited by the newspaper is Gao Yanhui, who underlined "the efforts made by the executive to stop this trend" but who added that the poisoning seems out of control. The most affected areas are the northern plains: Henan province ranks first for levels of poison detected.

Arsenic poisoning has affected around 600 thousand people in 131 counties, scattered in almost half of the domestic provinces. This can cause skin and liver problems, as well as various types of cancer. The hyper-iodine intake concerns 30 million people, which may damage the thyroid. Interestingly, these data are in fact identical to those of 10 years ago, when according to official statistics 30.98 million people were at risk.

The central government, according to the magazine, has spent "billions of yuan to try to improve water quality especially in rural areas, but local governments are still short of funds to continue the work." Matters are further complicated by a bureaucratic problem: according to the current system the Ministry of Water Resources alone has the power to choose where to intervene to improve water quality, but the same department lacks the geological knowledge to carry out the work.

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