Summary: In China, there is a lake near the city of Baotou. This lake has been the dumping ground of toxic chemicals produced by nearby industries responsible for the refining of many rare earth materials. Baotou has become the world’s leading maker of these products, due largely to the concentration of mines in the area. Since 1950, the population has shot from around 100,000 to 2.5 million residents. These rare earth minerals are an extremely important piece of the puzzle in today’s world of technology. Two of the minerals are Cerium and Neodymium. Cerium is used to polish touchscreen smartphones and tablets. Neodymium is used mainly to produce powerful and lightweight magnets, but has other applications as a dye and for making lasers. The waste byproducts from these and other industries are pumped constantly (aforementioned) and directly into the nearby artificial lake. The reporter notes that there was a smell of sulphur and “felt like hell on earth.”
Response: China is not exactly known for having very many environmentally friendly laws, but I never thought that anyone would think that pumping waste into a gigantic open storage pond would be a good idea. A measurement of radiation was taken near the lake, and results showed that there was three times more radiation there than what occurs naturally. The center of the city is less than 20 minutes away from this extremely polluted area. With housing and industry built within mere yards, there is no way that this is safe. Hundreds of people are exposed to it each and every day. Even if the government and/or businesses were to stop putting their waste there, and attempted to clean it up, there is no telling how long it would take. It might, at this point even be impossible. What is certain is that the waste will seep into the ground and cause untold problems in the future.