Cancer-Causing Substance Found In Two Chinese Rivers

The discovery of a carcinogenic substance has led officials to warn millions of people in southern China not to drink water from a pair of polluted rivers, various media outlets reported on Friday.

According to Reuters, more than three and a half million people living in Liuzhou in the Guangxi region have been advised to not consume water from the Liujiang River, the main source of drinking water in the area, due to high levels of the cancer-causing agent cadmium.

Earlier this week, the substance was also discovered in the Longjiang River, a tributary of the Liujiang, the wire service added.

David Eimer of the Telegraph reported that “panicked residents were rushing to stock up on supplies of bottled water” after learning of the elevated cadmium levels in the rivers, even though local leaders, including  Gan Jinglin, the head of Liuzhou’s Environmental Bureau, were offering assurances that the water was still safe for human consumption.

“The deadly discharge occurred almost two weeks ago on January 15th, but was only reported by state media on Thursday,” Eimer wrote on Friday.

“The Guangxi Jinhe Mining Company in Hechi City is being blamed for the release of the cadmium. It is not known for how long the company had been discharging the pollutant into the Longjiang River or in what quantities,” he added.

The pollution of waterways, especially those vital as sources of drinking water, is a “pressing issue” for the Chinese, according to Ken Willis of Reuters. Willis says that officials have been calling for stricter policy regarding such pollution, but adds that “the problem shows no sign of going away.”

Following the detection of the toxic metal in the Longiang River at Hechi, officials opened sluices at a quartet of hydrological stations located upstream in the hopes of diluting it, and local firefighters poured hundreds of tons of the neutralizing agent aluminium chloride into the water.

Despite those efforts, the elevated cadmium levels resulted in the death of many fish, leading in part to the run on bottled water by local residents.

Reuters, citing the Xinhua news agency, added that “local authorities had warned citizens not to drink water from the polluted sections of the river, and the government began looking for alternative water sources out of concern the pollution might spread further.”

“As of Friday, hundreds of residents near the source of the spill were still dependent on bottled water because wells there had also become contaminated,” Willis added, again referencing Xinhua.

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