Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Deaths, lung damage linked to nanoparticles in China

Truly scary stuff, and perhaps it is time to be a bit more aware of the things developing around us beyond our control, sight, or reason to fathom. Nanoparticles! Science fiction not too long ago, then high technology, now pervasive everywhere.

Deaths, lung damage linked to nanoparticles in China
By Tan Ee Lyn
Source – Reuters 17 August 2009

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Seven young Chinese women suffered permanent lung damage and two of them died after working for months without proper protection in a paint factory using nanoparticles, Chinese researchers reported on Wednesday.

They said the study is the first to document health effects of nanotechnology in humans, although animal studies in the past have shown nanoparticles could damage the lungs of rats.

“These cases arouse concern that long term exposure to nanoparticles without protective measures may be related to serious damage to human lungs,” Yuguo Song from the occupational disease and clinical toxicology department at Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing wrote in the European Respiratory Journal.

But a U.S. government expert said the study was more a demonstration of industrial hazards than any evidence that nanoparticles pose more of a risk than other chemicals.

Nanotechnology is an important industry. One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter (yard) and nanoparticles measure between 1 to 100 nanometers.

It is used in products like sporting goods, tires, electronics, cosmetics and surface coatings and has a projected annual market of around $1 trillion by 2015.

“Their tiny diameter means that they can penetrate the body’s natural barriers, particularly through contact with damaged skin or by inhalation or ingestion,” Song and colleagues wrote.

They said the seven women had worked for between five to 13 months in a factory spraying paint on polystyrene boards before they developed breathing difficulties and rashes on their faces and arms.

The women breathed in fumes and smoke that contained nanoparticles while working in the factory, Song said.


According to the paper, doctors found the women had excess fluids in the cavities surrounding their lungs and hearts, conditions that impair breathing and heart function.

Their lung tissues and fluids contained nanoparticles about 30 nanometers in diameter — matching particles that health protection officials later found in materials used in the factory where the women worked.

Two of the women died within two years of working in the factory. The condition of the other five women has not improved even though they are no longer handling such materials.

It is impossible to remove nanoparticles once they penetrate lung cells, wrote Song.

Allen Chan, a chemical pathologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong not connected to the study, said the findings were significant.

“These findings are important because they provide concrete evidence that these materials are harmful and protection must be given to workers,” he said.

But Clayton Teague, who heads the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, noted that the women who were sickened on the job were spraying a paste containing nanoparticles in a very small, unventilated room, and wore gauze masks only occasionally.

He said in the United States the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has developed extensive safety training for nanotechnology workers and a proactive risk management system to help companies maximize worker safety.

“From what we know, this tragedy could have been avoided by proper industrial hygiene techniques,” Teague said.


Filed under: Culture, Environment, Reuters, Technology

China slams Dalai Lama visit

Two versions of the same story – the first via the Straits Times (from Reuters), and the second from Al Jazeera; and it’s got to do with Tibet, and the Dalai Lama again (visiting Taiwan for the third time) who asserts his trip is ‘not for political reasons

A statement by the state run Xinhua Agency made it quite resolutely clear – they still see the Dalai Lama as a ‘splittist’ who has no place in the Greater China sphere.

And this is is always tricky as we have one ‘spliitist’ in the Dalai Lama, and the ‘split-ed’ (albeit now seemingly and gradually ‘unifying’ Taiwan together in the same media spotlight. Result – kneejerk Chinese reaction although this time the Chinese improved their tact. From the Reuters report in the Straits Times…“As with a denunciation it issued when the visit was announced last week, China focused its criticism on the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.By not blaming Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou or the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT), Beijing may have indicated that it does not wish to escalate the issue.”

China slams Dalai Lama visit
The Straits Times 31 August 2009

BEIJING – CHINA denounced the Dalai Lama’s trip to Taiwan, saying the visit by a man Beijing brands a separatist could ‘have a negative influence’ on relations between the mainland and Taiwan, state media reported on Monday.

The Tibetan spiritual leader arrived on Sunday in Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, for a hasty visit to comfort victims of a typhoon.

As with a denunciation it issued when the visit was announced last week, China focused its criticism on the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

By not blaming Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou or the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT), Beijing may have indicated that it does not wish to escalate the issue.

‘The Democratic Progressive Party has ulterior motives to instigate the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan, who has long been engaged in separatist activities,’ a spokesman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

‘We resolutely oppose this and our position is firm and clear,’ the spokesman said. ‘The Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan is bound to have a negative influence on the relations between the mainland and Taiwan.’ China is considered unlikely to retaliate by choking off growing economic ties between the long-time political rivals.

China opposes the Dalai Lama’s trips abroad and condemned Taiwan opposition leaders for inviting him last week to visit until Friday. He will pray for victims of Typhoon Morakot, Taiwan’s worst storm in 50 years which killed up to 745 people.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, flew from India to Taiwan’s main international airport for a mass prayer and other religious activities in storm-hit southern Taiwan. — REUTERS

China slams Dalai Lama Taiwan visit
Source – Al Jazeera English 27 August 2009

China has denounced a proposed visit to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, saying it threatens to “sabotage” improving relations between the two states.

Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, approved the visit by the Nobel Peace laureate to comfort victims of deadly Typhoon Morakot that struck earlier this month and devastated parts of southern Kaohsiung county.

China said it was “resolutely opposed” to Thursday’s visit, in a statement carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency on Thursday.

The Chinese government considers the Dalai Lama a “splittist” for promoting autonomy in Tibet.

Comforting victims

Beijing has often reacted angrily to governments which allow the Tibetan leader to visit.

“No matter under what form or identity Dalai uses to enter Taiwan, we resolutely oppose this,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Bureau said in its statement.

“Some of the people in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) use the disaster rescue excuse to invite Dalai to Taiwan to sabotage the hard-earned positive situation of cross-straits relations,” the statement continued.

An aide to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile, said the spiritual leader had been keen to visit Taiwan.

Tenzin Taklha said: “We want to make it very clear that the Dalai Lama is visiting Taiwan to express condolences to victims and lead prayers.”

More than 400 people were killed after Typhoon Morakot struck Taiwan on August 8 and unleashed floods and mudslides.

Strong moves

China is considered unlikely to retaliate by holding off growing economic ties between the long-time political rivals.

By blaming the opposition DPP, and not Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou or the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT), Beijing may have indicated it does not wish to escalate the issue.

“Beijing will be a little uncomfortable, but if they understand how severe the disaster is they will show some respect to Taiwan’s people,” said Wu Den-yih, the KMT secretary-general.

Last year, the Dalai Lama said that he wanted to visit Taiwan, but at the time, Ma said the timing was not right for such a visit. Taiwanese Buddhist groups criticised the decision.

But Beijing is also aware any strong moves against the Dalai Lama could play into the hands of Taiwanese opponents of President Ma, who has sought to ease tensions with Beijing.

Taiwan’s relations with China have improved under Ma, who has taken a more conciliatory approach than his predecessor. Then-Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian rejected China’s assertion that there is only “One China” and Taiwan is an inalienable part of it.

Political significance

China claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, although the two split amid civil war in 1949.

Victor Gao, the director of China’s National Association of International Studies, a think-tank affiliated with the Chinese government, told Al Jazeera that the Dalai Lama “continues to play both spiritual and political roles”.
He said that while the proposed visit to Taiwan was for spiritual purposes, the Dalai Lama has “been consistently undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“We also need to make it known that he himself is a Chinese national, and would be welcomed back if he chose to give up his activities,” Gao said.

Over the past 12 years, the Dalai Lama has made three visits to the island which is home to a large exiled Tibetan community and millions of Buddhists.

The Dalai Lama made his first trip to Taiwan in 1997 and visited the island again in 2001, triggering strong condemnation from China.

The Tibetan spiritual leader is due to arrive on August 31 and to stay for four days.

Filed under: Al Jazeera, International Relations, Straits Times, Tibet

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