Education is meant to be helpful, but recently thousands of Chinese children have fallen ill due to their school facilities. Adding to the unhealthily high levels of pollution throughout the country, athletic tracks in China composed of low-quality materials have been essentially poisoning the students who use them.
Affected students experienced a wide range of symptoms, from nosebleeds to skin conditions and coughs. Many of the affected schools reside in Beijing, but the problem persists at schools throughout the country.
The main school discussed by the Chinese media has been the Beijing No.2 Experimental School, where the track tested positive for high levels of benzene substances and formaldehyde. Other tracks around China have been proven to contain ethylbenzene and other toxic chemicals.
Many of the athletic tracks in China were produced from recycled materials, including old tires. Manufacturers may have been trying to cut costs by using sub-par materials.
Parents across China have been concerned about their children for months, citing illness, doctors visits, and even noting strange smells coming from the tracks. Some concerned parents even petitioned their schools to remove the dangerous tracks.
Users of China’s social media site, Weibo, have taken to the internet to express their experiences and views using the hashtag #ToxicSchoolTrack.
As a result of the national concern, the Chinese Ministry of Education plans to inspect all affected tracks before the start of the new school year and has already begun to replace those that are deemed below standard. According to the ministry, producers of “poisonous tracks” will be severely punished for their actions.
Thus far, Chinese officials have shut down nine factories involved in the production of the dangerous unregulated tracks. Multiple executives and employees of the factories, who are believed to be directly involved in the scandal, have been detained by authorities.
Even though the Ministry of Education is taking steps to improve the conditions of various running tracks, some parents still lack hope. One father states, “It takes a time to clean up things like these and it requires action from different agencies. I doubt we’ll see any real effects soon. For me, my priority is to guarantee my child safety and a good environment to grow up in.”
Hopefully, the Ministry of Education will take the public outcry to heart and continue cracking down on poisonous track producers, as well as continue working to ensure the safety of affected students.
– Carrie Robinson