Highly toxic PFAS are present in great levels. China has no national safety standards. Levels are higher in the industrial areas of southern and eastern China. Chinese company is building drinking water plants in developing countries.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – Nearly 100 million Chinese drink water with levels of toxicity above safety limits, this according to research by Tsinghua University.
A team from the university monitored the levels of per and polyfluoroalkyls (PFAS) – man-made chemicals widely used in industry. Once in the water, they end up in homes and the food chain, harming human health.
Since China has no national safety standards, the study used the US state of Vermont's regulations as the benchmark, taking its data from 66 cities with a total of population of 450 million.
The study found that the concentration of PFAS in more than 20 per cent of the studied cities – 16 in total – exceeded safe levels.
The cities with high levels included Wuxi, Hangzhou and Suzhou in eastern China and Foshan in the southern province of Guangdong. Other major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, were under the limit
The areas with the highest industrial activity and population density had the most polluted water, with extremely high levels of PFOA and PFOS in three Chinese cities in the Yangtze (Blue) River Basin.
PFOA and PFOS are among the four most dangerous PFAS (synthetic chemicals). The European Food Safety Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency stress that they take centuries to "degrade", and cannot be assimilated by the human body.
China is one of the world's largest producers of PFAS. Although it has signed international agreements to eliminate or reduce these compounds, many observers and environmental groups often accuse Beijing of not respecting its commitments to protect the environment.
According to analysts, the data published by Tsinghua should worry developing countries that rely on Chinese companies to solve their problem of access to drinking water.
The latest country to partner with China is Burkina Faso. The Chinese Construction Engineering Company will build four drinking water plants in 30 months, thanks to a US$ 58 million concessional loan by the Exim Bank of China, the Belt and Road Initiative’s main lender.