Top carmaker embroiled in pollution scandal

BYD, China’s most valuable carmaker, is facing allegations this week of pollution coming from spray paint at one of its largest factories in Changsha, Hunan province.

On 7 May, Phoenix Tech reported that residents living near BYD’s Yuhua factory in Changsha had been filing complaints to authorities for the past two months about a “pungent smell” from the facility. Dozens of children reported nose bleeds, nausea and coughs that their parents blamed on the BYD production lines.

According to a survey conducted by the residents themselves, most of the symptomatic cases live downwind of the factory. Angry residents gathered at the gate of the factory on 5 May to protest the pollution after rounds of negotiations with BYD representatives had failed to deliver a solution.

Management and workers at the BYD factory disputed the pollution allegation. A follow-up report by Jiemian News interviewed workers who expressed doubt about the residents’ account. The factory’s management has reportedly pasted in local neighbourhoods emissions testing results that show no violations. Residents said the tests had been done at the wrong time of day.

In public environmental records, the BYD factory has been listed as a “major source of complaint” for its spray-painting operations since 2019. The factory was later listed as one of 28 Changsha facilities in need of pollution control for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids, including paints, inks and adhesives. As well as being harmful in themselves, the compounds aid the formation of the particulate matter pollution behind China’s notorious smog problem, which has in recent years become a top priority for environmental regulators.

Jiemian reported that on 10 May real-time VOCs monitoring equipment was installed in neighbourhoods after the Changsha municipal government set up a special task force to investigate the issue. Residents and local environmental NGOs told Jiemian they would wait for results from official investigations before deciding what to do next.