The department of carcinogens
Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn on Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 8:15 AM
A stack of asbestos boards, which you can purchase here
This brief note is by Christopher Barden.
You can find more information about asbestos use in China on China Dialogue: A deadly white dust.
After I explain to my fellow Beijing courtyard residents why the carpenter cutting huge boards of asbestos in the middle of the yard, creating dust clouds of invisible asbestos fibers, is a really, really, really bad idea, the only response I get is from a woman literally cooking for her family right next to the asbestos party:
She says: ”中国人就这样“ (This is just how Chinese people are). And then continues to cook just two meters away from the carpenter taking a skillsaw to a board of asbestos.
I'm talking to HER and my neighbors, not "Chinese people." I never used the word "Chinese" or "China" or "this country"! (The default position is to assume that any foreigner is always speaking to the entire nation, I guess?)
I explained, this shit is really dangerous, will kill you with a nasty form of cancer, and I can tell you this from personal experience.
It killed my dad. When you learn what the term "pleural mesothelioma" means at the age of 17, it's a good bet one of your parents was in the construction or demolition business.
A couple people laughed. The rest were just blanks.
How could so many people be so blithely unconcerned about immediate, obvious dangers around them?
Ordinary residents are exposing themselves to levels of raw, friable asbestos, at incredibly high levels, and they don't care.
This single preventable form of cancer will undoubtedly create an impact on the health bills and heartache of this country that will be the first of its kind in the world.
And I'm living right in the middle of it!
To learn that his son is now living amidst exposed asbestos, blithely installed and cut up by apathetic zombies, my dad must be doing spit-takes in Heaven.
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Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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