Life in China's Cancer Villages

Caption: Xiangfan, China: A man walks beside a polluted creek near a chemical factory.

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.

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."

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.

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