How polluted? Our first human casualty

It’s no secret that China is unbelievably polluted, and Tianjin in particular. My morning commute is often into a haze where the buildings just across the street seem faded. But it’s not just the air; it’s industrial and agricultural environmental practices – pesticides, waste disposal, food additives and stuff, and tons of construction. This photo was taken at break time (around 9am) from the third floor of our school building. You can – theoretically – see our apartment windows from this spot on a clear day; we’re in between the school and that barely visible tower on the right.

For an in-depth and beyond-frightening look at China’s current, unprecedented environmental rampage, see the NYT multimedia series Choking on Growth.

The details are still coming in, but here’s what’s going around the NGO office that contains the library where I currently study in the afternoons. One of the associates here, who heads up a disabled children’s care program through the NGO we’re with, has just gotten results back from doctors in the States. She’s lived here for several years, but returned to the States last month because her body was rejecting food – almost all food. She’d been switching from food to food, eliminating things from her diet whenever she started reacting to it. Eventually, she’d eliminated almost everything. Last time we went out to eat, she came with us to the restaurant but brought a container of buckwheat, and that’s all she ate. It’s all that was left that she could find that wouldn’t give her some sort of allergic reaction.

The results are in from some of her tests. Apparently she’s consulted more than one doctor, and they all agree that basically the toxins in her system have exceeded her body’s tolerance level. It’s reached the point where her body reacts to any level of toxicity in the food. They said it will take three to six years for the stuff to leave her system. She has to stay in the States because it’s next-to-impossible for her to get the special restricted diet in China that she’ll need to recover. I assume she has some sort of predisposition to developing food allergies, but she apparently isn’t the only foreigner known to our associates who’s returned home under these circumstances.

We’re paying attention to this as more details come out (and perhaps get corrected), because Tianjin is one of several possibilities for us long term (we don’t have a list, we just haven’t ruled Tianjin out… yet). In the meantime, the head of a disabled children’s care program is stuck in the States, and doesn’t when she’ll be back.

6 thoughts on “How polluted? Our first human casualty”

  1. ah, you noticed? I have wondered about how that got started… like if way back in the day there was some belief about it being good for your health or something. I haven’t asked about it yet though, since it’s so embarrassing.

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