Haze of confusion over most-polluted city list
BEIJING (Reuters) - A U.S. group's report naming the Chinese city of Tianjin as one of the world's most polluted places apparently confused the large northern port with a notorious lead-processing town in the country's east.
Tianjin, with more than 10 million people, gained unwelcome global attention on Wednesday when the New York-based Blacksmith Institute named it as one of the world's most heavily polluted places for its outpouring of toxins from scrap lead processing.
"Tianjin has China's leading lead production bases, contributing to lead poisoning and various disorders and illnesses in children," said a photo caption on the Institute's Web site (www.blacksmithinstitute.org) showing the city's port and rising skyline.
But the Chinese reports cited by the announcement referred to Tianying Town in impoverished Anhui province, some 750 km (460 miles) south of Tianjin.
The Blacksmith announcement itself also referred to "Tianjin in Anhui province" and noted that 140,000 people were affected by the pollution.
Not that Tianjin was leaping to its own defense on Thursday. Repeated phone calls to the city spokesman's office went unanswered.
Despite the apparent confusion, there is no doubt that toxic pollution from China's industrial boom is taking a heavy toll on citizens' health and lives.
About 460,000 Chinese die prematurely each year from breathing dirty air and drinking polluted water, the World Bank estimates.
Beset by public alarm about acrid air and toxic water, China has promised to cut industrial pollutants by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010. Last year it failed to meet the annual target.
Tianjin certainly has its share of noxious emissions, and Linfen in Shanxi province, which is also on the institute's list, certainly boasts some of the nastiest air on the planet.
But Tianjin has very little lead processing, which remains common in smaller sites across poorer, inland China.
Tianying, the smaller eastern town, claims to have cleaned up its act and is promoting an environmentally clean industrial park.
But a 2006 report by the official Xinhua news agency said that Jieshou, the city that encompasses Tianying, continues to process 160,000 tones of lead, mostly from used batteries, every year -- half of total national production.