BEIJING — Investigators in eastern China said they have not found high levels of pollution around a school where an explosive state television report in April said hundreds of kids had fallen sick with illnesses including leukemia.
Soil, air and water contamination levels at the Changzhou Foreign Language School, which was built near recently closed chemical plants about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Shanghai, were found to be within acceptable levels, according to state media. The results of the three-month investigation appear to contradict reports that had sparked mass outrage earlier this year at a time when China was grappling with a series of public health scandals.
In April, China’s central government moved swiftly to launch a probe just hours after state broadcaster China Central Television, or CCTV, aired a segment saying that 500 kids had fallen ill and that soil tests showed toxic chemical levels at 95,000 times the national limit.
The CCTV segment, which garnered tens of millions of online views a day after it came out, appeared to corroborate investigations by other news outlets that showed environmental regulators had nixed plans for a school at the site, but construction moved ahead anyway.
Former employees of a pesticide company said they regularly buried waste and suffered skin ailments, according to the reports, which were dismissed as overblown by school officials.
Changzhou city officials said that there were “some problems with the earlier soil rehabilitation process,” but that investigators otherwise found few significant problems at the school, the official Xinhua news agency reported Friday. Ten cadres have been disciplined in relation to the case, Xinhua said, without giving details.
Some netizens expressed skepticism Saturday that there were no problems found at the school despite the damning reports months earlier. But the social media response was relatively muted compared to the outpouring following the initial CCTV report, which touched on the particularly sensitive subject of children’s safety.
Chinese parents have often blamed weak government oversight for frequent environmental and public health scares, most notably a 2008 tainted baby powder scandal that deeply shook Chinese society.
Just days before CCTV aired its report about the school in Changzhou, central government officials were scrambling to respond to revelations that hospitals had been administering millions of faulty children’s vaccines.