Mon, Feb 02, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Pollution causing rise in babies with defects: China

AFP , BEIJING

Every 30 seconds a baby is born with physical defects in China, partly because of the country’s deteriorating environment, state media said, citing a senior family planning official.

The figure, reported by the China Daily in its weekend edition, adds up to almost 1.1 million a year, or about 7 percent of all births countrywide.

“The number of newborns with birth defects is constantly increasing in both urban and rural areas,” the paper quoted National Population and Family Planning Commission Vice Minister Jiang Fan (江帆) as saying.

She did not give a figure for the increase in the rate of birth defects.

A report in the Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper last month gave a lower figure for birth defects, saying they showed up in 4 percent to 6 percent of all births in China.

The factors behind birth defects are “very complicated,” Hu Yali, a professor at the Affiliated Drum Tower Hospital of Nanjing University, told the Beijing-leaning Hong Kong paper.

Hu said research suggested 10 percent of defects were caused by pollution, while 25 to 30 percent were a result of genetic factors and the rest a mixture of both.

Shanxi Province, a major source of toxic emissions from large-scale chemical industries, has recorded the highest rate of birth defects, the China Daily said.

“The problem of birth defects is related to environmental pollution, especially in eight main coal zones,” said An Huanxiao, the director of Shanxi’s family planning agency, the paper reported.

Pan Jianping, a professor of the Women and Child Health Research Office under Xi’an Jiaotong University, said the increasing rate of birth defects would soon become a social problem.

“Economic pressure is very heavy for families raising babies with physical defects, particularly for those who live in poor rural areas,” he said.

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