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Life in China's Cancer Villages

Life in China's Cancer Villages
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.65

     challenging words:    cancer-causing, fluoride, greenish-brown, happening, hydroxybenzene, mountainous, once-sparkling, rickety, droughts, literature, various, cases, solution, operate, erosion, environment
     content words:    Now Liang, Communist Party, Because China, Western China, Eastern China

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Life in China's Cancer Villages
By Colleen Messina

1     Caption: Xiangfan, China: A man walks beside a polluted creek near a chemical factory.
2     Liang is an old man. He has wrinkly skin and laughing black eyes. Even though his expression is calm, Liang feels sad because his village has changed so much. The 77-year-old man misses the clear water of the river and the fresh air he used to breathe. Liang lives in a small village in China. He believes that pollution gave him lung cancer.
3     Liang has a rickety house along the once-sparkling river. Today, the water is greenish-brown. The water does not smell good. It does not flow freely. Liang believes that he got lung cancer because he drinks contaminated water. The air is also full of chemicals. Both kinds of pollution come from chemical factories that came to the village two decades ago. The factories brought jobs to the villages. They also brought sickness and sadness. Now Liang says, "I just hope I can die sooner. I gave my life to the Communist Party, yet I have nothing to leave to my own children."
4     Other villagers are also sick. Over 200 people have been diagnosed with lung, bone, liver, and breast cancer. The children also have a higher rate of leukemia than normal. Leukemia is a blood cancer. Some villagers were able to move away, but many families cannot afford it. This village and others like it have been nicknamed "cancer villages" by people in the media. More and more villages have faced these challenges in the last 25 years.
5     One report said that the water from the factories has high levels of bacteria and fluoride. The factories also produce a cancer-causing chemical called hydroxybenzene. The levels of these substances exceed government recommendations for safety. However, even though the government forced some factories to close, they still operate secretly. Some people try to sue the factories. No court will accept the cases. The people in the villages feel trapped and helpless.

Paragraphs 6 to 11:
For the complete story with questions: click here for printable

Extended Activities:

1.  Water is essential for a healthy life. Research at least two ways that water is purified. What kinds of substances are removed from water to make it safer to drink?

2.  Chinese culture has existed for thousands of years. Pretend that you are a scientist and you have to prepare a time capsule to bury for the future. Which items would you put in the time capsule so that future generations will know something about our culture? List five items that you would place in the time capsule and why.

3.  Write up fortune cookie messages for ten of your friends. Then, write one for yourself that describes the best thing that could happen in your life.

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