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China school contamination denied

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The local government of Changzhou, China has denied media reports that children at a school are falling sick because of contamination.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that nearly 500 children developed serious illnesses, including blood abnormalities and cancer.

The cause was thought to be air, soil and water toxins at the school, which is near three former chemical plants.

But the authorities say repeated tests showed they met safety standards.

The Changzhou Foreign Language School relocated in September 2015 next to the former site of three toxic chemical plants. Changlong, the chemical company that operated at the site, had previously been fined for environmental violations.

Both the CCTV report and the local authorities in Jiangsu province say children started getting ill shortly after the move.

However, they disagree on how severely ill the students are.

The CCTV report said out of a total of 2,451 students, 641 had medical examinations and 493 were diagnosed with illnesses including bronchitis, dermatitis, lymphoma and leukaemia.

Local authorities, meanwhile, say ailments were reported after the move but they list them as skin allergy, cough, nose bleeding, vomiting, oral ulcers and lumps in the thyroid glands.

Changzhou authorities added on Tuesday that from 11 January to 29 February, 597 students went to hospital – 464 were normal and 133 had some abnormal indicators.

But authorities said the results fell within normal ranges.

They said: “We invited experts to analyse the test results. Experts say thyroid nodule could happen to any 13-15 year old teenagers, and the possibility is 7%. The reasons are: insufficient iodine intake, too much pressure, instinct immune deficiency, drug intake; or virus affection, or immune system disease.”

No leukaemia case was found, Changzhou officials have said. Only one lymph cancer was found which was diagnosed in September 2015 before the school moved to the new site, they added.

CCTV’s report triggered widespread media anger, and tens of thousands of people took to social media to demand that local authorities be held accountable.

China has faced many health scares before, and many people are sceptical about assurances they receive from the local authorities.

In October, there were allegations that a running track at another school, also in Changzhou, was poorly constructed and could contain toxins, with children complaining of nosebleeds and dizziness.

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