Carcinogens found in 82% of polluted land
Last Updated: 2014-04-18 10:08 | Xinhua
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More than 16 percent of China's soil and almost 20 percent of its agricultural land is polluted, according to an official report released yesterday.

The general condition of the land is "not optimistic," the report said. The quality of farmland was worrying and deserted industrial and mining land suffered serious pollution.

The report from the environmental protection and land and resources ministries is based on a survey conducted between April 2005 and last December on about 630 square kilometers of land across the country.

The main source of pollution was "human industrial and agricultural activities," the report said.

Industrial waste contaminated land around factories and mines while automobile exhaust polluted the air along the country's main highways. Irrigation by polluted water, the improper use of fertilizers and pesticides and the development of livestock breeding was polluting farmland.

Chen Tongbin, a Chinese Academy of Sciences research fellow, said the report sounded "a loud alarm."

"Compared with air and water pollution, soil pollution is more difficult to control and remedy, taking a much longer time and needing more resources," Chen said.

In addition to the lower quality of crops putting people's health at risk, people living in areas where there is polluted soil may also suffer problems, Chen said.

While affecting the normal growth of plants and microbes and damaging the soil's ability to preserve nutrients, pollutants were likely to permeate underground and contaminate water sources.

A breakdown of the figures showed that 11.2 percent of the surveyed land suffers slight pollution, while 1.1 percent is severely polluted. About 2.3 percent of land is lightly polluted with 1.5 percent suffering medium pollution.

Some 10 percent of woodland and 10.4 percent of grassland is polluted, the report added.

About 82.8 percent of the polluted land is contaminated by inorganic materials, with the top three culprits being carcinogens cadmium, nickel and arsenic.

Compared with survey results between 1986 and 1990, there had been a notable increase in inorganic pollutants. Levels of cadmium pollution, for instance, rose by 50 percent in southwest and coastal regions and up to 40 percent in other areas.

The southern part of China suffers heavier soil pollution than the north, while pollution is severe in three major industrial zones - the Yangtze River Delta in east China, the Pearl River Delta in south China and the former heavy industrial hub in the northeast.

Southwest and central Chinese provinces report a higher level of heavy metals in the soil.

A statement released with the report said China is, or will be, taking "a series" of measures to better protect the soil environment and curb pollution. It vowed to "uncompromisingly wage a war against land pollution."

The environment ministry is to map out an action plan, it said.

The State Council has made the soil environment a top priority in its legislative efforts, with a special group responsible for drafting a law on environmental protection.

China's environmental protection law, which took effect in 1989, has been deemed central to curbing pollution and China's legislature is due to review the latest revision next week.

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