By Alex Perry, Ishaan Tharoor, Andrew Katz, and Charlie Campbell, TIME

Thousands of pigs were found dead in rivers supplying Shanghai’s water, a grisly discovery that has drawn attention again to China’s toxic pollution, which contributes to some 700,000 deaths each year. Here are some points of concern:

Waste

Tai Lake — a massive basin that holds China’s third largest body of freshwater, providing water for 30 million people — has been classified as a major natural disaster by Beijing after decades of toxic contamination.

Lead

The soil and water around Tianying, a Dickensian manufacturing center in northeastern China, have been poisoned by lead runoff. Locally grown wheat carries 24 times the permissible level of lead, a known neurotoxin.

Soot

Once fertile farmland in Linfen, China’s coal center, is dotted with mines that spew thick plumes of choking smoke.

Sulfur Dioxide

Concentrations of airborne particulate in Urumqi — a major transport and cultural hub of 3 million people in northwestern China — consistently measure 10 times the level that the United States deems safe.

This article was written by Alex Perry, Ishaan Tharoor, Andrew Katz, and Charlie Campbell and published in TIME on March 25, 2013. Photo by Rajiv Ashrafi/Flickr.

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