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One fifth of China's farmlands are polluted, government says

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Nearly one fifth of China's farmland contains pollutants such as cadmium, nickel, and arsenic, reports the Associated Press. The news is outlined in a multi-year soil survey released this week by China's Environment Protection Ministry and its Land and Resources Ministry.

"the overall condition of the Chinese soil allows no optimism."

The survey, started in 2005, found that 19.4 percent of China's agricultural land is contaminated with heavy metals and other pollutants. The results also indicate that China has an overall soil contamination level of 16.1 percent. Furthermore, researchers found that contaminants were at five times the safety limit in 1.1 percent of the country's soil. Faced with these results, the report said that "the overall condition of the Chinese soil allows no optimism."

The Chinese government has been holding onto these results for a year, reports the AP, and even went as far as classifying the report as a "state secret." But growing public anger over news of cadmium in rice — cadmium is a carcinogenic metal that has been linked to kidney damage — has catalyzed its release.

As expected, the country's most industrialized regions had the highest levels of contamination. Unfortunately, the report doesn't give a detailed list of the contamination levels found in each region. Yet this week's survey release is still considered a step in the right direction by many anti-pollution activists. Don Zhengwei, a Beijing-based anti-trust lawyer, told the AP that keeping the report's results hidden would have only served to make the public's anger stronger, as soil contamination deteriorated and "news of cancer villages and poisonous rice" continued to spring up.