China / Society

Zhejiang tells schools to test for toxins

By China Daily (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-23 08:29

Education authorities in Zhejiang province have ordered strict oversight of school running tracks following parents' claims that their children had fallen ill after using a new facility.

The Zhejiang Provincial Education Department released a regulation on Sunday requiring all primary and secondary schools to have their running tracks checked to ensure they do not contain toxic materials. Schools have also been told to examine the bidding and building process for new tracks.

The move followed a claim by several parents that children studying at Yuhai Central Primary School in Rui'an had suffered symptoms including nosebleeds, fevers and rashes since early in May after being exposed to a new plastic running track that was built in October.

The claims went viral online on Thursday after one of the parents posted details on Weibo, China's major micro-blogging platform. She said her 8-year-old had been coughing and had nosebleeds after using the new track, which she claimed smelled pungent.

Photos showing health check reports from Rui'an People's Hospital and a close-up of a red rash on a student's leg were uploaded along with the post.

Lin Guoqiang, the school's principal, confirmed to local media on Friday that some students had health issues, but stressed that the new school campus and its new track had passed a test conducted by RO-Testing, a local environmental safety agency.

"Except for two classrooms with slightly higher levels of chemicals that could be dispelled by ventilation, all the other new campus facilities were declared safe to be used based on the test result in October. Our students moved in months later at the beginning of this year," Lin said.

However, some parents were unconvinced.

A mother surnamed Li told Zhejiang-based newspaper Xiandai Jinbao she had itchy skin after standing on the running track for 10 minutes.

"The response from the school doesn't ease our concerns, and we require further investigation on the issue," the paper quoted her as saying.

The school has temporarily closed the new campus and moved students and lessons to a nearby venue. It said it will organize comprehensive health checks for all students and have the facilities rechecked under the supervision of professionals and parent representatives.

According to the new regulation, all schools in the province should work with relevant organizations to test for toxic chemicals in both new and established facilities. Third-party supervision is also now mandatory in the bidding process for new school track construction.

Education authorities in the province also ordered newly built school facilities to be left empty for a while after being declared safe for habitation.

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