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Monday, 13 May 2013

Cancer Villages

(See photo here,

Rising cancer rates in China has brought attention and acknowledgement to “cancer villages.” Supportive global campaigners and outraged victims in China have raised the issue of increased cancer rates due to pollution through social media. Utilizing social networking websites such as Weibo and Twitter more people have been made aware of cancer villages and the raised voices have also caught political attention.

One example of a Cancer Village is Huangjiawa in China’s Shandong province, whose inhabitants suffer with one of the highest stomach cancer rates in the world. Huangjiawa’s water is believed to be contaminated by toxins from an aluminum smelter which is also polluting the air, in contrast to the clean river from the past recalled by a villager, Mr Zhang.

This degradation of water sources --including groundwater-- is also evident in polluted waters of other villages, all suffering from high cancer rates, with pollution from industrial facilities. According to Greenpeace East Asia, 320 million people in China are without access to clean drinking water and 190 million drink water severely contaminated with hazardous chemicals. Amoung such people are farmers who have no choice but to water their crops with contaminated water. The communist party has promised to address the poor air, water, and soil conditions of these villages and others in the country, as the people’s health depends on it.

As a basic necessity of life that a human cannot survive more than a few days without, a necessary resource for farming crops and for hygiene, and literally the substance that marine wildlife breathe, absolutely taking away someone's access to safe water is inexcusable. Where I live usually we can turn on a tap in the kitchen and clean water comes straight out which is generally safe to drink and wash our food and hands with. We also have hoses in the backyard to water a garden, toilets and sinks for a sanitary washroom, and there are many bodies of water where people can go fishing and what we catch is safe to eat. Safe water sources are all to easy to take for granted here.

This year’s National Cancer Prevention and Care Week slogan is “Protect the Environment, Keep Cancer Away.” The more knowledge there is of water-related issues, the more we know how important it is to not take clean water for granted, and of the shocking degree of polluted resources that many people and other animals around the world are forced to live with. Cancer villages are dying proof that human health is deeply connected with the condition of the environment, and that we cannot continue polluting water and making toxic air. Both local and international public response is also proof that many people really do care, and it’s good to hear that after the increase in awareness there are plans being made to help. Ma Jun, one of China’s leading environmentalists, says in another article on cancer villages that the recognition of issues is the first step taken in order to eventually solving them.

The boom in communication technology has played a big role in awareness on issues like this, and hopefully environmental awareness will continue as more than a passing trend and will fuel changes in lifestyle to improve the health of ecosystems and all living things, including humans.

2019-03-19 update: Here is a link to a later post about an English-translated map of the canccer villages:

RT. (2013, February 23). China admits pollution brought about 'cancer villages' รข   RT News. RT. Retrieved May 12, 2013, from

Tatlow, D. K. (2013, April 17). As Cancer Rates Rise in China, Trust Remains Low – The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2013, from

Webb, S. (2013, March 5). 'Cancer villages': Global twitter revolt over hamlet where wells are poisoned and disease rates are soaring. Mail Online. Retrieved May 12, 2013, from

Updated June 4, 2015, and March 19, 2019

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