China: Baby Born With Defects Every 30 Seconds Due to Pollution
In a marked shift in policy, the Chinese government has finally admitted to the connection between disease and pollution
According to a Chinese health official, a baby is born with defects every 30 seconds due to the poor environmental conditions in their country.
“The number of newborns with birth defects is constantly increasing in both urban and rural areas,” Jiang Fan, vice-minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) said at a conference in Beijing recently. “And the rather alarming increase has forced us to kick off a high-level prevention plan.”
Most of the pollution problem is due to the massive amounts of coal waste in certain zones in China.
“The problem of birth defects is related to environmental pollution, especially in eight main coal zones,” said An Huanxiao, the director of Shanxi provincial family planning agency.
A government study released in 2007 revealed that birth defects had increased by roughly 40 percent between 2001 and 2006. The study did not reveal the cause of the spike.
“Our research shows that chemical waste pollution has been the main factor to influence the health of pregnant women and their babies in some areas,” said Hu Yali, a professor at the Affiliated Drum Tower Hospital of Nanjing University.
Admitting that the terrible environmental conditions are in fact behind the number of birth defects is a major shift in position for a government that is known to have harassed environmental activists that would publicize the connection between pollution and disease.
“The statement from the National Population and Family Planning Commission once again proved that coal burning is not only a climate killer, but one of the major health hazards in China,” Greenpeace China said in a statement.
China’s coal-rich Shanxi province, a center of noxious emissions from large-scale chemical industries, has recorded the highest rate of birth defects, according to the China Daily.
Activists want the government to take stiff measures to improve the current conditions.
“The government must take measures to prevent birth defects,” Li Bin, minister of the NPFPC said.
China currently produces two-thirds of its energy from coal-fired plants, and is in the process of constructing more coal plants at a rapid rate.