Number of villagers sickened by arsenic-tainted drinking water rises to 200 in south China


BEIJING — The number of villagers sickened by drinking water contaminated with arsenic in southern China has risen to 200, the official Xinhua News Agency said Thursday.

The residents of two villages in Guangxi province began showing symptoms last Friday, including swelling in the face and eyes, vomiting and blurred eyesight, it said.

Initially, 136 villagers were reported to have been affected, but the number rose to 200 after all residents were tested, it said. It said 19 people were still in the hospital but were in stable condition.

The water in the villages was contaminated by industrial waste from a nearby metallurgy company, Xinhua said.

It said a recent typhoon caused waste water from the company to overflow, polluting nearby wells.

China’s double-digit economic growth has come with a surge in toxic industries. The country has 16 of the world’s 20 most heavily polluted cities.

China’s Communist leadership has recently become more sensitive to the environmental cost of the country’s economic boom after a series of high-profile accidents along polluted rivers disrupted water supplies to major cities. Farmers have protested over tainted water supplies and ruined land.

The government is also struggling to reassure domestic and foreign consumers that it is providing sufficient oversight in other industries after dairy products contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine were blamed for the deaths of four children and the sickening of about 54,000 others. The crisis has led to recalls of Chinese-made milk products worldwide.