Despite Pollution, China Could Take the Lead in Global Sustainability

Teflon was first applied to cookware in the late 1950s by a French engineer named Marc Gregoire, and since then, it’s taken off. However, some of the toxins that arise as a result of manufacturing are having negative effects on China’s already polluted rivers.

The Xiaoqing flows 134 miles through the major cities of Zibo, Binzhou, and Dongying in Shandong province. Tens of millions of people depend on this single river for fresh water and fishing.

Close to the river’s origin, human and animal waste, as well as chemical runoff from fertilizers and pesticides, have all contributed to murky, pungent waters.

However, a factory further down the river has escalated those issues.

In addition to visual pollution in the Xiaoqing River — plastic, debris, styrofoam — another, more dangerous form of pollution lies in the water as a result of DuPont’s Teflon production.

Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, has long been used by DuPont in the production of Teflon and other items, and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. Now, this chemical is further polluting a water supply that millions of people depend on.

The plant is the world’s biggest producer of Teflon and emits 350 pounds of PFOA every day, an amount that totals 63 tons in a single year.

Despite the pollution plaguing China’s rivers, a recent report from the CEO of Danish industrial biotech giant Novozymes states that China has the opportunity to become a leader at the forefront of the sustainability movement.

“The Sino-US agreement on climate change is a very important step, and probably the real reason why the Paris climate agreement has got an actual reach,” Peder Holk Nielsen said.

According to Nielsen, China has already made some important innovations in respect to sustainability, including using more renewable forms of energy.

Nielsen noted that while there are financial risks associated with much of the technology used for sustainability, green financing can assist in that regard.

Ultimately, Nielsen said he has faith that China can become a world leader in the sustainability movement.

Meanhile, citizens in China still long for the days when their rivers were safe from harmful chemicals.

Citizens have expressed concern and nostalgia for the days they could fish and swim in their beloved rivers.

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