A Swim in the Pearl River

On July 12, thousands of people will be swimming across the Pearl River which runs through Guangzhou in Guangdong province. (SCMP 6/12) While the event is supposed to show-case the improved pollution situation of the river, Guangdong environmental officials have advised against it because the river is still too polluted to swimming. The water quality is “rated at Grade 5, two levels down from the Grade 3 which would make it safe for swimming.” In fact, the water is so polluted that it is not even suitable for industrial uses. The most shocking thing about the swim is that most of them, according to the SCMP, over 5000 students, teachers, police, and employees of state-owned enterprises, will be forced to participate.

On an unrelated matter, but relevant to issues of regulatory matters protecting the public, it has recently come to light that industrial grade (instead of clinical grade) oxygen has been used for patient care in a Guangxi hospital. (SCMP 6/12, based on a CCTV report) The obvious problem with industrial grade oxygen is that it contains impurities that might be harmful to patients. I suppose these issues would be consistent with the many stories of contaminated food and medicines that are the result of a weak regulatory system that, like environmental laws, should otherwise protect the public.

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