Market Failure Example: Heavy Metal Danger in China

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Shared by Neetika Tomar

Disclamour: This article is a reproduction of the write up by Yin Pumin "Heavy Metal Danger" published on BEIJING REVIEW.com.cn  View the original article at 

http://www.bjreview.com.cn/nation/txt/2012-02/20/content_426556.htm

 

 A toxic cadmium spill in January (2012) left 3.7 million residents in Liuzhou city in south China Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region struggling to find a secure supply of drinking water.

Contamination was first detected in Longjiang River on January 15 when hundreds of dead fish were discovered in the river’s upper reaches. The river is major of the Liujiang River that runs through Liuzhou.

The Environmental Protection  Bureau of Heichi, a city upstream on the Longjiang River, tested local water and found and discovered cadmium levels higher than those permitted by National Safety Standards. In the worst hit areas the water levels indicated that cadmium levels were 80 times higher than the permitted levels.

 

Experts with task force charged with the tackling the pollution estimated that about 20 tons of cadmium has been discharged into the Longjiang River, polluting a 300 km stretch of water.

Cadmium is a highly toxic metal used in batteries, electroplating and some industrial paints. Over exposure can lead to fatal liver and kidney damage.

“The metal will have a long lasting environmental impact on the local fish and soil when it sinks into the river bed”, said Li Li, a researcher with Chinese Research Academy of the Environmental Sciences.

The incident was led to an overhaul of factories and facilities that use heavy metals along the Longjiang River. Investigators have identified Guangxi Jinhe Mining Co. Ltd. and Hongquan Lithopone Materials Plant as the Primary suspects behind the illegal discharge of cadmium. As on February 15, nine people were detained on suspicion they were responsible for contamination.

Investigators show that a lack of pollution treatment facilities, the illegal discharging of toxic sewage and poor supervision by the local authorities were the primary causes of spill.

Ma Jun, director of Institutes of Environmental of Public and Environmental affairs (IPEA), a Beijing based NGO, said that the pollution was warning for Heichi one of the countries most important mineral producing centers, to tighten regulation of the industries.

A spate of lead poisoning cases and reports of cadmium contaminated rice recent year have pushed the issue of heavy metals of heavy metals into the spotlight.

 

 POISONEND SLURRY: Workers clean the sewage left by the Copper Mine in Shang hang County, Fujian Province, on July 13, 2011

POISONEND SLURRY: Workers clean the sewage left by the Copper Mine in Shang hang County, Fujian Province, on July 13, 2011.

 

In April 2009, more than 800 children were diagnosed with elevated levels lead in their blood in Fengxiang, Northwest China’s Shaanxi province. Soon afterward, hundred of children were found suffering from lead poisoning Wugang, Central China’s Hunan province. In October last year, almost 1000 children were diagnosed with elevated levels of lead in their blood in Jiyuan, Central China’s Henan province.

In July 2009 more than 500 villagers fell sick and two died after being exposed to cadmium that was illegally dumped to the Liuyang River by Xianghe Chemical Plant in Liuyang, Hunan province.

In March 2011 more than 160 residents including 53 children, living near a battery factory of Taizhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province were diagnosed with excessive lead levels in their blood.

Heavy Metal Pollution stems from hundreds of different sources, but it mostly purification of metals during the manufacturing process.

Besides manufacturing, the wastes dumped by the Chemical factories and mines are among the major cause metal poisoning in the country in the country.

 In southwest China’s Yunnan province between April and June last Year in which two truckers were accused of dumping more than 5,000 tons of chromium contaminated waste near a reservoir and on hills around villages in Qujing, causing 77 head of livestock to die and threatening the health of tens and millions of people.

In 2006, a severe case of cadmium contamination poisoned 150 residents in Xinma village in Hunan. Two villagers died as a result of the contamination.

           A Bloody Tragedy: A child is being treated at the Anhui Provincial Children’s hospital in Hefei on January 6, 2011. More than 200 children were sickened by battery factory emissions in the province with lead poisoning (in the photo).

            A Bloody Tragedy: A child is being treated at the Anhui Provincial Children’s hospital in Hefei on January 6, 2011. More than 200 children were sickened by battery factory emissions in the province with lead poisoning (in the photo).

 

The incident was part of a much wider problem with vast tracts of land on the banks of the Xiangjiang River in Hunan found to be riddled with pollutants. People eating rice and vegetables grown on this land regularly succumbed to illness or contracted cancers.

In addition to widespread ill health the pollution leads to a reduction in grain production. According to Ministry of land and Resources, heavy metal land results in a loss of more than 12 million tons of grain annually causing direct economic losses of 20 billion Yuan ($3.17 billion) every year.

So this is how the industrial development so important for the country has its own side effect, causing fatalities, long lasting illnesses and diseases and even a huge economic setback to the country. The necessary processes of industries and factories are proving fatal for the country. So where it is necessary for the industrial market to take out such processes there is some negative externality being produced by it’s by product for which the industry does not compensate the consumers, the damage caused, is not included in the price of the final product produced. Hence the market fails as it is not doing its only job to equate supply and demand but also causing an externality.




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