Feeds

back to article A tenth of Chinese farmland polluted by heavy metals

A new report on environmental pollution in China has shown that around ten per cent of the country’s farmland is heavily contaminated with lead, zinc, and other heavy metals. China's Southern Metropolitan Daily reports that Wan Bentai, the chief engineer for China's Ministry of Environmental Protection, said that "in total about …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Anonymous Coward

in before...?

are iron maiden touring china?

1
0
Coat

Oh, blast you

Only one post when I show up, and it's pipping me to my own joke! Gah.

Still, though, I hear that part of the problem is China's alternative to high speed trains - toxicity levels have gone through the roof due to the constant crashing of hastily-constructed Led Zeppelins.

Look, I had to come up with something, OK?

2
0
FAIL

Increase of EWaste? Blame RoHS.

Now that all electronics must be "lead-free" we have increased incidence of early failures in electronics. Does the consumer take the item in to be repaired, or do they just junk the entire thing and buy another?

Usually, it's JUNKED.

All that waste going into a landfill someplace just because some bureaucrats thought that lead should be banned in computers because of some fantasy-land ideas of babies licking the solder inside computers.

In about three to five years, electronics will be failing at such a rate as to make the past twenty years of EWaste seem like a drop in the bucket.

9
1
Silver badge

Isn't rather the point...

That once they are junked, the damage will be lesser?

0
0

FAIL indeed

We manufacture electronics and ever since RoHS introduction, reliability is going down. It's a constant struggle to get decent yields in the first place, let alone survive five years in the field.

0
0
Thumb Down

Actually the bigger imapact is from WEEE - we're not allowed to dump anything in the EC so it has to be recycled. In reality this means sending it to China where the recycling process is more about extracting the most profitable materials for the least cost with no regard to the effluents produced.

Modern lead free solders are actually as good as traditional leaded solders for most applications provided they are handled and used correctly - many assemblers actually went Pb free long before RoHS was mooted. The higher incidence of early life failures is more to do with the low-cost manufacturing processes and counterfeit components, as high volume production has moved towards China so the level of ELFs hase increased. In over ten years of overseeing production (and repairs) of numerous electronic products, the only time I have seen issues with lead free solder joints was when we tried a budget assembly service.

0
0
Silver badge
Pirate

Chinese statistics and the truth

10% of us believe that China tells the truth when it comes to bad news.

Heavy metal poisoning is just 1 reason why I don't knowingly buy Chinese food products.

I'd much rather pay a premium for local produce.

0
0
Facepalm

"All that waste going into a landfill someplace just because some bureaucrats thought that lead should be banned in computers because of some fantasy-land ideas of babies licking the solder inside computers"

Nothing to do with rampant consumerism, insatiable demand for cheap acquisition and even cheaper disposal, then? It's been a long, long time since people wanting shiny-shiny paid the true costs of it. Go externalities!

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Or to put it another way...

Around ten per cent of all those cheap fruits and vegetables labelled as grown/originating in China you see on your supermarket shelves is heavily contaminated with lead, zinc, and other heavy metals...

0
0
Unhappy

Heavy...

...indeed!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

so can Worstall

drop by and explain again the difference between ore, dirt, and how it relates to (all) the costs of refining?

0
0
Bronze badge

Well

"The electronics are burnt, then mixed with aqua regia (a mix of nitric and hydrochloric acid) which precipitates out the gold."

That's actually a bloody strange way of doing it. As is already pointed out, aqua regia dissolves the gold, not precipitates it.

There are several sensible ways of doing this. You could have a tin bath (ie, puddle of hot tin) and you run the boards through it. You'll melt the solder off, adding to the bath, the gold should go into solution. The chips then come out easily and you've boards with copper in them left. Chop and separate by flotation and get copper and shredded plastic.....the plastic could be burnt to provide power in an incinerator, can be mixed in with cement to make bricks.

You can also just burn the things in a high temp furnace (plasma by preference) and you get a nice alloy of the tin, lead, copper and gold. Standard copper scrap refiners know how to deal with that.

But the idea that an e-waste refiner would try to go all the way to getting the gold is pretty weird. The tin or copper refiners (whichever of the above methods you use) will pay you the gold values.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

``When the value of the metals...

is greater than the cost of extracting the metals then dirt becomes "ore".''

My point was that there are costs that can be offloaded onto the powerless and/or ignorant, as this article makes clear; but yours didn't: I think perhaps one has to be careful when making "pure" economic arguments, as it's easy to forget costs not traditionally included (e.g. environmental ones), or those not enforced by (local) law. The dirt/ore distinction isn't just about an energy budget, or a dollar one.

0
0
Bronze badge

Jobs...

Article quotes someone as saying that the thirdworld countries need the jobs so we should ship our waste to them for recycling, even though:

1. Our countries need the jobs.

2. Their countries are environmentally unsound etc.

3. Our countries need the jobs.

Oh, did I already say that? Hmm. Maybe it's important.

And maybe "because they need jobs" isn't actually the reason why the stuff is shipped over there. Maybe it's "because they'll do it for a tiny fraction of the price."...

2
1
Bronze badge
Boffin

design for recycling

will only happen when it's mandated by laws and strict penalties... sadly, corporations always take the cheap way out and have to be forced into something...

This e-waste time bomb has been ticking for decades... corporations have skipped around most of the irksome requirements by outsourcing as much as possible to countries which effectively do not give a fig about their environment or people as long as they're undercutting everybody else in getting the business... things will only clean up when the EU and US authorities start mandating that all electronic goods sold into the EU are manufactured and also recycled under the same environmental standards and employee health standards as those made in the EU and US... and enforce it and crack down hard on corporations that fail to keep their sub-contractors in line...

14 years ago, I did a final assignment for my honours degree on design for recycling and design for dissassembly (which is needed to keep things cheap to get access to components)

It IS possible to recycle electronics cleanly with minimum environmental impact, BUT it costs money which is the problem as the end-of-life side of the product is seen as as loss center on the balance sheet... IF they did it properly, it would be a plus item as they would be able to take in other company's waste for a profit...

The way to do it with difficult items like televisions is to actually shred and burn the entire item and scrub the flue gasses clean while condensing off the valuable metals. The heat from the burning can be used to power the flue gas scrubbers and the rest of the plant.

14 years later, and things are still as bad with the recycling being "exported" to third world countries.

Sadly, incineration has gained a bad rep in this country and it will be difficult to start up recycling plants that do this incineration...

1
0
Thumb Down

"...sadly, corporations always take the cheap way out ..."

As the owner of one of those much-reviled, mean, gluttonous 'corporations', I have to ask you: What, precisely, should I do? I could implement the changes you'd like for pollution, the changes others would like for efficiency, and so on... Then my product would be priced 25% (ish) out of its market, since my competitors would certainly not spontaneously make the same changes.

Now, all things being equal, consumers will buy the least expensive thing.

So now I go out of business. I might lose my savings, my investment in my business, maybe my car and house too. I may be a "corporate ceo", but I'm still one of the 99%, you know. The only corporate jet I've got is a LaserJet. And my employees lose their jobs, to boot. I have to tell them, and look them in the eye. But as a corporate kingpin I suppose I like it, eh?

What path do you advocate for me. Mr. C? A principled dive into personal bankruptcy in trade for being a vanishingly small bit more anti-pollution?

This issue is the same for large businesses too. Corporations are often evil (see Goldman Sachs, which, by the way, produced zero heavy metal poisoning in its products) but lambasting companies for not doing good-but-expensive things is profoundly unfair. It suggests that businesses are evil for not taking actions which would quite often destroy then.

Yes, with super high margin stuff which isn't sold on price, or where 'green' design is a competitive advantage, there won't be a penalty vs. your competitors. But in those markets, you probably already do it anyway, since the other players will be too. If not, they'll start.

Businesses are controlled by consumers, in the end. Some are more adept than others at turning those tables (Apple, ahem), but in general, within a market segment, you just can't say, "I'm raising prices 20% (or 10 or 5), but this has 1.8% less heavy metals".

The majority - vast majority - of consumers will not pay the premium, whether it's on a $9 thing or a $95000 thing. Yet you feel comfortable ripping evil 'corporations' for not choosing oblivion?

Will you choose such an issue where your own employer falls down, and demand change lest you resign? Is your answer no, because you want to get paid and feed your family and stay solvent? Well, then, how sad - always taking the cheap way out...

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Not That Anybody Gives A Shit

Too many people just pick the cheapest product when shopping.

Read the goddam labels people!

I'm sure this news will not slow the current trend of importing ever greater numbers of foodstuffs from China to the west as our food corporations continue their incessant drive to reduce costs to create profits by purchasing everything from "fresh" foods (garlic) to powdered foods (baby formula) from the lowest cost producers, mainly China.

Meanwhile local farmers are walking away from their land because they cannot compete with a country that has little to no health regulations and pays subsistence level wages to the people employed within the food production chain.

Go West Go!

Fail for us all, collectively.

0
1
Anonymous Coward

All very well for those of us with healthy bank balances and options to choose, for example what about the young mum, living on her own, on the dole looking after a baby? She has fuck all to spend on anything and she has to go without food that day to ensure her baby still eats. "Sorry love but you have go another two days without food and your baby goes without tomorrow as we insist on no cheap food imports, everything has to be 3 times the price to ensure we don't import from cheaper countries."

Very easy to set the world to rights when you have the height to see down from an ivory tower.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

well, with a healthy bank balances in hand, ...

We can't do much about those exploited foreigners, I suppose, since we can't control their local law; but we could try to remove the economic incentive of their exploiters.

We could give the hypothetical "young mum" a choice: by letting her buy cheap food subsidised by those healthy bank balances you mention, rather than by exploted foreigners.

Inventing powerless "young mums" as a rhetorical device doesn't make those with money and choices less able to act.

/OhDearHaveITurnedIntoASocialist?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Fail for us all, collectively.

Correct - it is the job of government, as our collective representatives.

0
0
Silver badge
WTF?

young mum, living on her own, on the dole looking after a baby

How did she get into that position?

Are you one of these woman pandering alpha male wannabes that think that the current explosion of single mother poverty is somehow the fault of men and has nothing to do with stupid young women with a "baby born" fetish and a desire to live off the public teat?

0
1
FAIL

Ah, yes! My dream: To live in a monotone semi-squallor, disregarded by the wealthy and loathed by the middle class. I desire to eat shitty food, give my child a shitty life, and never in general have anything new, or good, or of my own choosing.

I'll have busted-ass furniture, a crap apartment in a crap neighborhood where crappy people hang around and do crappy things to people like me. If I'm lucky enough to own a car, it'll be crap.

I'll never do anything interesting, never have an interesting life, and exist solely on the stimuli of junk food, TV, and the other miserable people around me.

That sounds AWESOME! Government teat for the WIN!! People must be just CONSTANTLY be having babies in order to live this kind of life!

Hey, when MTV does those "This guy has a fucking awesome house" shows, maybe they should tour some government housing, and gaze upon the life of Riley their denizens enjoy! Then they can showcase the *true greed* of people who deliberately become pathetic in order to gain horrible lives FOR FREE!

Seriously, man... really? You believe that shit? Honestly?

0
0
Silver badge

uhuh

So what you are saying is that they become single mothers with multiple children by multiple fathers because . . . . . . ?

0
0
Flame

Poor, maligned zinc...

I like the way that a barely-transition metal essential to mitochondria gets the same shoeing as lead...

You could of at least had the decency to name cadmium and mercury :-p

1
0
Childcatcher

China is finding out what industrialisation really means

We already know: there shit heaps all over this country.

And then there is Europe. I can remember West Germany shipping crap to tips in East Germany but that was before reunification. After that it was shipped over to the Eastern block countries, but of course they are now in the EU. Here is the rub, the EU is demanding that these countries clean up the mess.

Pot, kettle, black. Oh yes.

0
2

Pollution

Interestingly, there was a recent article about whether recycling was worth doing, where the summary was "does the crushed PC have more $(metal) content than dirt?" If the dirt here has more metal content than anywhere else, it's no longer dirt - it's ore, and is worth processing...

0
0
Boffin

Aqua regia...

...dissolves gold, the opposite of precipitation.

Could be worse - a common way of extracting gold is to dissolve it in a solution of sodium cyanide.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

and people mock me for my vast collection of archiaic hardware.

0
0
Yag
Facepalm

Who cares, it's so far away... erm...

Actually, there is some unconspicious food products canned in EU that use agricultural products imported from China...

"Le Cabanon", was bought by the chineese years ago and used mostly (sometime half rotten) china-produced tomato concentrate in their proudly-labeled as "made in France" tomato sauces... I still remember a traumatizing TV show about it years ago.

0
1
FAIL

There should be a law against it …

… but wait, there is. http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/sectors/32447.aspx probably links to details somewhere. It is illegal to export electronic waste from the EU, but this law is (was) not being well enforced, e.g,: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10846395 …

0
0
Yag

easy peasy!

This is not "electronic waste", but "Computer donations to needy countries".

time to puke anyone?

0
0
Gold badge

Er, so...

Whilst I naturally regret the plight of the Chinese people, being shat upon by their money-grabbing one-party-capitalist overlords, I have to confess I don't see a great deal that I can do about it that isn't just a form of self-flagellation.

China is a sovereign state. If they want to pollute their environment, there isn't much we can do about it. History shows that most dictatorships have a crap record on the environment. Perhaps we should just wait for the Chinese Spring. The Arabs should be finished sometime next year, so perhaps by 2014 or so...?

0
0
Silver badge

Get with the program dude!

Environmentalism is ALWAYS about self-flagellation and NEVER about cleaning it up. Okay, you do get the occasional exception for holier-than-thou-ism, but that pretty much covers it.

0
0
Bronze badge
Mushroom

What fucking Greenpeace don't mention...

.. is that life expectancy in China is increasing steadily. (see link below) It's all very well moaning on about a bit of pollution, but billions of people are benefiting from industrialisation. The 'greens' appear to want us all to live subsistence lives in the rain forest, hunting and gathering. I'm much happier having double the lifespan and putting up with a little bit of lead here and there, thank you very much.

http://www.google.co.uk/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_dyn_le00_in&idim=country:CHN&dl=en&hl=en&q=life+expectancy+in+china

0
0
Boffin

Hunter/gatherer life expectancy..

.. was *much* higher than the new-fangled farming culture life expectancy. The incidence of disease & malnutrition was much higher amongst ancient farming communities than amongst the h/g societies.

So ideally we *should* go back to hunter/gatherer. All we have to do is get rid of the 80% of the worlds population that the h/g life can't support..

(Who else remembers a sci-fi book that has high-tech h/g societies roaming the world with all their tech needs being supplied by discrete, isolated robotic factories? I can't remember the name of the book..)

0
0
Bronze badge
Paris Hilton

@launcap.

More like exterminate 99.9% of the world's population. The Wikipedia says that world population never exceeded 15e6 before agriculture.

That naked swimming bird was on a TV show the other day, and she reckoned that the recent explosion in human technology only happened because of reaching a population threshold achieved through agriculture. That's an interesting theory.

0
0

H/G societies also had a higher incidence of war between tribes to obtain the choicest areas to h/g.

So, war (ok, humans are going to do that no matter what if history tells us anything), malnutrition or pollution that can be mitigated when the ruling elite finally pull their collective head out?

Personally I'm all for exporting environmental crusaders to China to even out the trade deficit. We've got a surplus and we are making more every day in our <strike> higher education <strike> indoctrination schools.

1
0
This topic is closed for new posts.