Amid a public outcry, China’s government has stopped the construction of synthetic running tracks in schools after some were found to be made using industrial waste.
Children have fallen ill, allegedly from breathing in toxic fumes coming from the plastic tracks.
The Ministry of Education said in a statement it had ordered all campuses to stop building or planning any plastic running track, reports South China Morning Post.
We are … coordinating relevant government agencies to improve relevant standards, accelerate the revision process and enforce the standard as a mandatory requirement … to put the health of students first– Ministry of Education statement
Local authorities are to enforce the ban until they were "absolutely sure" of tracks’ quality and safety, the statement said.
A report on state television in China said synthetic school running tracks are made of industrial waste such as old rubber tyres and cables.
At least four primary schools in Beijing have started removing their tracks, according to state broadcaster China Central Television.
During the summer all existing tracks in China are to be tested to see if they give off harmful fumes.
"We are … coordinating relevant government agencies to improve relevant standards, accelerate the revision process and enforce the standard as a mandatory requirement … to put the health of students first," the statement said.
State broadcaster CCTV aired an investigative report earlier this week revealing that the use of waste plastic with harmful chemicals had become common practice when building running tracks in mainland schools due to loose safety standards and inadequate government supervision.
Parents at the Beijing No 2 Experimental School’s Baiyunlu campus commissioned an air quality assessment earlier this year after pupils felt ill using a playground.
The children suffered complaints including nose bleeds, headaches, skin allergies and sore eyes since they started running and playing in the area in April.
The tests found the surface contained pollutants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and short-chain chlorinated paraffin at levels which broke European safety standards.
China’s national standards do not require checks for these potentially harmful chemicals, according to the news website Jiemian.com.
An entrepreneur in the chemical industry told the website that no virtually no running tracks in China could meet European standards, which have recently been adopted in Shenzhen.
Image: Synthetic running tracks are made of industrial waste such as old rubber tyres, a report said (Wikimedia Commons)