China’s Ministry of Education has said it will tear up running tracks at schools that have been blamed for making students ill.
In China, where a recent survey revealed that around 20 percent of the country’s arable land is contaminated, and air pollution in some cities is so bad that merely venturing outdoors poses a danger to your health, another form of pollution is threatening the short- and long-term health of school children who use running tracks. “Poison runways,” as the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China said in a recent CCTV report.
Synthetic (rubberized or rubber-like) tracks at many schools are made from industrial waste—including recycled tires, cables and wire. A frightening large number of children using such tracks have developed health issues that could, conceivably, be long-lasting and/or precursors of cancer of one type or another. (Leukemia has already been reported in at least one province with the ‘poison runways.’”
A CCTV report earlier this week noted that numerous students at the Beijing Second Experimental Primary School have suffered nosebleeds, dizziness and “similar problems” that seem to be attributable to the “plastic [running] track [that] exudes [a] pungent smell.”
The report says that school’s situation is far from an isolated case: “Not just in Beijing, odorous ‘runways’ have been observed across the country for at least two years.” (The preceding sentence is an ‘approximate’ English translation of the report on CCTV’s web site. That report, in the show ‘The Economic Half Hour,’ was entitled “Who created the poison runway?”
CCTV said an investigation has been launched to discover the source of the problem, but a report in today’s New York Times suggests the fault isn’t hard to find: Subcontractors who built the tracks are said to have used sub-standard materials – below, it would seem, the ‘standard’ quality of “recycled tires, cables and wire” – and also, The Times said, “violated safety rules.”
A rambling report from the Ministry of Education – rambling, at least, in the Google translation to English – notes at one point that “there is no standards and industry standards” regulating the production or installation of sports-related equipment (including tracks).”
As well as demanding the establishment of “effective measures” to address the existing problem, the Ministry decreed that schools or school districts should “establish standards and implementation to further promote the improvement and implementation of standards.”
The Chinese, not being a God-fearing people, probably don’t understand the phrase “from your lips to God’s ear.” Also being more respecting of people in theory than in practice, Chinese authorities may, or may not, ensure appropriate changes are made to protect, in at least this way, the children who are their future.