All Beijing schools with sythetic running tracks and sports fields are to be tested for poisonous substances, following an incident in which dozens of students fell ill. The official government news agency Xinhua also reports that construction of new tracks has been halted pending the review.
The initial Beijing incident took place at the Baiyunlu campus of Beijing No.2 Experimental School in Xicheng District. Students using the running track suffered from nosebleeds, dizziness and coughs. Tests revealed that the track was emitting dangerous levels of benzene and formaldehyde. It appears that the track had been in use for nine months, but that the summer heat triggered the release of the poisonous gases.
Wang Dinghua, an official from the Ministry of Education, blamed “lax supervision” for the problems, and the authorities have promised to track down those responsible. According to China Daily though, the problem lies not only in standards not being complied with; the standards themselves are insufficiently stringent. Many harmful components are not listed, making their use in tracks legal.
The Beijing incident follows similar cases in Jiangsu, Guangdong, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Henan and elsewhere, and will inevitably raise further concerns among parents about safety standards in China.
Photo: nchenga, Flickr