A quarry in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, believed responsible for causing breathing problems in nearby middle school students, is being investigated.
Students of Hegang City No. 22 Middle School are preparing for a race, while their teachers stand aside wearing gauze masks.
Nearly 400 students from the Hegang City No. 22 Middle School are said to have inhaled thick dust every day and many complained of dry coughs since the Tuanjie Quarry began to exploit granite just 100 meters from the school about six months ago.
Doctors from the province's No. 2 Hospital said students were very likely to contract black lung disease, or pneumoconiosis, from inhaling granite dust, China National Radio reported yesterday.
Lin Ruifan, 11, one of the seriously affected students, compared the dust to light rainfall. Doctors diagnosed mild pneumoconiosis and told him it was incurable, he said.
When the wind blew from the quarry, students had to stay indoors, even for sports. The report said the dust could "cover a man within 30 minutes and a car in a day."
The school has now been forced to suspend classes.
Overwhelmed by criticism from outraged parents, environmental protection authorities investigated and found the quarry hadn't received environmental impact assessment ratification.
The quarry gates were sealed.
However, the quarry ignored the ban, Shi Jingshan, vice head of the school, said.
To avoid being discovered, the quarry now operates only at night, Shi said.
The local police and discipline watchdogs of the Communist Party of China are investigating, the report said.