Where The Water You Drink Is As Toxic As The Air You Breathe

Where The Water You Drink Is As Toxic As The Air You Breathe.

Although the report in the link below is more recent, in an earlier study of the Yangtze River pollution by Greenpeace International, this conclusion was drawn: Today, the River contributes around 40% of the nation’s GDP, the equivalent of about $1.5 trillion US dollars. Commercial activity has prospered; over a billion tons of cargo passed through Yangtze River ports in 2008, and these convenient national and international transport links and abundant water resources also offer vital advantages to industry. Industrial developments are particularly concentrated in the Yangtze River Delta region: including raw chemicals and chemical products, chemical fibres, petroleum refining, coking and nuclear fuel processing, smelting and pressing of ferrous metals, transport, electric equipment and machinery, telecom, textiles, and computers and other electronics. The delta region alone accounts for around one-fifth of China’s entire economy. It includes 16 cities, among them Shanghai, whose 20 million people are dependent on the Yangtze for drinking water.

The river receives around 30 billion tons of waste water every year (including domestic sewage), some of it untreated. According to Müller et al (2008), the quantity of pollutants disposed of into the Yangtze may be ‘one of the world’s largest’, albeit diluted by the enormous volume of water in the river. While a great variety of chemicals are inevitably discharged by industry every day, perhaps the most insidious are the persistent and bioaccumulative substances. Despite the dilution factor, these substances can be subsequently re-concentrated back to harmful levels in sediments and biota. In a 2010 study, Greenpeace looked at samples of popular edible fish – wild southern catfish and common carp – from locations near four major cities along the Yangtze. Alkylphenols (APs) – a group of persistent hazardous chemicals with hormone disrupting properties – were recorded in the livers of all but one fish. The results support the bioaccumulation of APs in the fish species along the Yangtze and show that APs are widespread in fish along the Yangtze – with consequences for human exposure since the two species sampled are commonly eaten. Another persistent industrial chemical, perfluoroctane sulfonate, was also detected in almost all the samples. The beginnings of long-term build-up of bioaccumulative and hazardous substances in the Yangtze River food chain seem very clear; the widespread pollution by these and other hazardous chemicals released by industrial processes could undermine the health of the river and the sustainability of the region’s economy. Credit: Greenpeace International.

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