Running tracks containing “toxic” plasticisers at schools in eastern China have been making children ill and could leave male students infertile, according to mainland news reports.

Unscrupulous contractors hired to install the tracks at multiple primary schools in Jiangsu province stand accused of using “sub-standard” materials to cut costs and boost their profit margins.

China school track
School track in China. Photo: Sohu.

According to one school in Suzhou, students have been suffering form spontaneous nosebleeds, headaches and rashes since they began exercising on the school’s new track in September. Similar claims have since arisen from schools in Nanjing, Wuxi and Changzhou.

Prolonged exposure to the materials could even cause “severe poisoning” and lead to male infertility, reports have indicated.

Lead salts and phthalate plasticisers are allegedly among the most harmful materials contained within the tracks. An official with Wuxi’s education bureau, however, has admitted that no standards for running track materials actually exist.

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others