There are no more red apples in the coal town of Zhangjiakou in China’s Hebei Province.
Instead, all the apples have taken on a blackish hue because of dust from nearby coalmines. Piles of coal sit in quarries near the town, and coal dust constantly blows through residential areas.
The unappetizing color of the apples has caused their popularity to decline, so farmers in that area have started growing corn instead, the Global Times, a Chinese state media, reported. The farmers said their apples now had “coal genes” that changed their color permanently.
Everything in the city is covered in coal dust, and the air itself is gray and hazy.
The locals said people living in Zhangjiakou have forgotten what colors things are supposed to be in nature, according to Global Times.
“It’s still dirty no matter how many times we clean… we don’t even open the window, but look at the window sill, it’s still layered in coal dust,” a local resident said, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Post reported that safety standards in the coalmines aren’t good, but complaining doesn’t help because the coal industry is so big. Industry profits sat at 17.2 billion yuan (USD $2.8 billion) in 2011.
“Filing a complaint to the environmental bureau is equal to not filing anything at all,” another Zhangjiakou resident told the Post. “They just don’t care.”
Hebei Province is the most polluted province in China, and Zhangjiakou is the second most polluted city in that province.
The pollution is affecting peoples’ health. More than 9,900 deaths and 70,000 hospitalizations occurred due to coal-related pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in 2011, according to a report by Greenpeace.