Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

China’s River Yangtze, The Worlds Most Polluted

Posted by w_thames_the_d on July 10, 2010


I have a friend who is an adept swimmer. They do marathon swimming which means swimming for upwards of 8 hours at once. This person came to China to swim in the Yangtze, about 7 years ago. They told me that before entering the water, they needed shots for tetanus, typhoid and what seemed like an AIDS cocktail. Supposedly the water was filled with feces, trash, plastic, everything but fish. She was hospitalized for several days after the swim. Skin is the largest organ in the body and I guess the constant exposure to the toxins is just too much.

Here is an excerpt from one man’s sojourn down the Yangtze. This guy does these long swims to teach us how fked we are with our waste and specifically the water supply.
The simmer/activist is Martin Strel, the website is found here
PG: Did you experience any health problems while swimming the more polluted rivers?
MS: It’s not possible to compare the Amazon with the Yangtze or the Ganges. The Amazon is muddy, but not so polluted. My body was terrible when I swam the Yangtze. I had big problems with everything—my liver, my eyes, my ears. I spent the last two weeks in the hospital. It was so polluted with toxic waste, doctors had to clean my blood every night.
On the Yangtze, 400 million people live there, people throw things away and for some, the water is like the trash. The Nile is terrible, especially in Egypt. I would like to change this a little bit. In China, it was difficult to get permission because the government didn’t like what I was doing to raise awareness. One of the most important things was the quality of the water, the pollution is great and there is work to do. But after raising awareness, other governments started to put pressure on the Chinese government to act.

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