China has emerged as a leading producer for exported goods, but that accolade which has earned them billions has provided what could be a lasting impact on their local environments.

Factories in Xintang produced 40% of the jeans bought in the US and 60% of Chinese purchases each year, but that has led to contamination of rivers and streams which carry away the toxic chemicals used to dye the fabric. The river in Xintang then leads to the Pearl River.

Similarly, the “Capital of Sexy” of Gurao, known for producing vast quantities of underwear, has led to the river in the local vicinity, the Xiao Xi, to be deemed filthy, unfit for laundry or drinking water. In flood seasons, the gardens and homes of villagers are flooded with waste water, described as “smelly”. Fish no longer inhabit the river, a sad fact that highlights this issue as a serious one.

The issue threatens far more than fish and river cleanliness, however. The Guardian include in their own report a quote from Lin Zhixin, a worker from Sichuan. “My cousin once worked in a dyeing plant. He died of pleurisy.”

Such reports can only add to the voices calling for a more efficient and environmentally conscious China.