Heshan, China

By Jason Lee

Heshan, a village with a population of about 1,500 in China’s Hunan province, is sometimes given the grim label: “cancer village”.

Located some 1,200 kilometers (770 miles) from Beijing it stands in an area rich in realgar, or arsenic disulphide.

A villager washes clothes in a river with heavy arsenic concentrations through

Factories and mines sprang up to process this precious resource but they were shut down in 2011 because of the pollution they caused. It seems that even now, the consequences have not gone away: Heshan residents say that many have died from cancer caused by arsenic poisoning.

After making the long journey to document life in the village, I found myself in front of a vast, green cornfield and a clear river. Everything looked normal, and I wasn’t sure if I had come to the right place.

But after randomly knocking on the door of Xiong Demin and his wife Wen Jin’e, who both suffer from cancer, I realized how hard life is for some of Heshan’s residents.