Following the recent concerns over the safety of artificial running tracks at Beijing schools, The Beijing News has been investigating the processes by which they are manufactured, and has learned that they are mostly composed of old tires, cables, and other industrial waste, mixed with glue.
Representatives from the industry are reluctant to talk to the media, but undercover reporters visited a plant where the materials for tracks are made, which they described as resembling a garbage dump. They spoke to a Mr Zhang, manager of a construction unit responsible for laying the tracks. He confirmed the process by which material for the tracks is produced, and told them that he does not attend the schools himself when the tracks are being laid because he believes the mixture to be too toxic.
Their investigation is certain to fuel the alarm and anger of parents at the lax safety standards in the construction of facilities for Beijing’s schools. It follows an incident at Beijing No.2 Experimental School in Xicheng District, when students fell ill after using the running track, which was found to be emitting toxic gases. The same school now has a problem with its classrooms, which are reported as having unacceptable levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen, as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and short chain chlorinated paraffins.
It seems unlikely that Beijing No.2 Experimental School is alone in having these problems in its building standards. We reported yesterday that the French International School has temporarily closed its gymnasium and auditorium, having allegedly been supplied with false safety certificates for equipment at its new Laiguangying campus. All artificial running tracks in Beijing schools are now being tested, but China Daily has criticized the lack of comment from the authorities responsible for quality supervision and inspection, saying “It is a shame that competent authorities have appeared so indifferent. Their silence has already prompted speculations about ‘unspeakable secrets’. The longer they keep silent, the more rumors and suspicions will do the rounds.”
Photo: Mark Buckawicki, via Wikimedia Commons