Schools across China have been ordered to remove running tracks made from toxic materials that have been blamed for sickening students, in the latest in a long line of product scandals blamed on corruption and weak oversight.
A statement on the Education Ministry’s website said nationwide inspections by environmental and consumer protection departments have been ordered over the summer school break.
Investigations will also be conducted into officials and others found to have been negligent or corrupt. Those found guilty will be punished severely “with no mercy given,” the statement said.
Tracks made from recycled tires and other industrial waste are believed to have caused dizzyness, nosebleeds and respiratory problems among students in Beijing and several outlying provinces.
Chinese authorities have shut down nine factories and detained some executives after reports that toxic industrial waste was used to make running tracks widely used at schools, official media said Thursday.
Parents of pupils at an elite elementary school in Beijing protested this month saying that their children suffered from nose bleeds and allergic reactions after using running tracks, the latest health scare in a country where safety standards are frequently compromised for profits.
China has suffered recurrent consumer safety scandals over recent years, prompting public outrage and driving a market for imported baby formula, cosmetics and other products.
School safety has also been an issue, with badly designed buildings leading to crushing incidents. State broadcaster CCTV also recently reported an outbreak of health problems among students at a high school campus in the eastern province of Zhejiang, possibly linked to polluted soil, although local authorities said inspections turned up no environmental problems.
The Cangzhou government set up an investigation team and local authorities have shut down nine plants, sealing their machines, materials and semi-finished products and putting “related personnel” in custody, said hebnews.cn, the Hebei provincial government’s news portal, on Thursday.