» THE DEFINITION OF SCARY: China’s Cancer Villages (癌症村, Aizheng Cun)

by Brian Awehali

I woke up this morning and considered going outside. Lately, I have been avoiding the outdoors here in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, because I fear the industrial haze and the cough I seem to develop whenever I spend more than a few hours out and about. There are ominous smells here: acrid metallic clouds of gas with something like formaldehyde that have me breathing as shallowly as I possibly can when I pass through them.

Despite this, last night I was reconsidering my aversion to the Chinese outdoors, wondering if I was being paranoid. Sunlight is still moderately healthy. And after all, I drink heavily filtered water, wash any fresh vegetables I buy several times (they recommend using diluted bleach as well, but I refuse to trade one poison for another), and I live, sleep, run and work out in a heavily insulated building with industrial grade air filters going 24/7.

I also drink lots of coffee, which I seem to remember reading somewhere renders me all but impervious to cancer.

But then, after my coffee, any anticarcinogenic confidence I had evaporated when I sat down to check email and a friend of mine had forwarded on a ghastly article entitled “Made in China: Cancer Villages,” by Lee Liu, from Environment Magazine. The article goes into great depth about China’s unprecedented levels of cancer and the “grow first, clean up later” approach to industrial development driven largely by the forces of economic globalization.

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» BAD VIBES: Poison Pleasure Products?

interview by Brian Awehali and Lisa Jervis

When Jennifer Pritchett, Jesse Jacobsen, and Jessica Giordani opened up their Minneapolis-based sex toy store, The Smitten Kitten, in August 2003, they wanted to open a fun, sex-positive feminist business while saving fellow Minneapolites the slight inconvenience of having to drive eight and a half hours to Chicago just to buy a leather harness or sparkly purple butt plug. However, their entry into the sex toy business [online at smittenkittenonline .com] quickly brought them face-to-face with some unpleasant health- and ethics-related realities of the industry. Most major sex toy vendors, they discovered, were selling highly toxic products to customers—including porous “jelly” toys, which are susceptible to mildew and mold.