China: Birth defects rose by 40 per cent between 2001 and 2006, linked to pollution

China’s horrific pollution has been firmly linked to a staggering increase in birth defects according to a major scientific survey.

The number of Chinese children with birth defects rose by 40 per cent between 2001 and 2006, according to the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

Around four to six per cent of all children born in China each year have physical defects, including congenital heart disease, cleft palates and water on the brain. Of those, around 30 per cent die and 40 per cent are disabled.

The World Health Organisation estimates about three to five per cent of children worldwide are born with birth defects.

In the first large-scale Chinese survey on the topic, Professor Hu Yali of Nanjing University linked one-tenth of all birth defects in Jiangsu to pollution.

Related article: Stem Cells Undo Birth Defects (MIT Technology Review)

Jiangsu is one of China’s richest provinces and the heart of the country’s manufacturing hub. Professor Hu tracked more than 26,000 pregnant women between 2001 and 2005.

“Birth defects are now the single biggest killer of infants on the mainland,” she told the Nanjing Morning Post. More than a million babies are born in China with “visible defects” every year.

Researchers believe that the figures from Jiangsu may be far lower than the national average. Shanxi, a coal-rich province in the north of China, has the highest rate of defects at 18 per cent and is notorious for the noxious emissions of its huge coke and chemical industries.

“Statistics show that birth defects in Shanxi’s eight large coal-mining regions are far above the national average,” said An Huanxiao, the director of Shanxi’s provincial family planning agency.

By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
Last Updated: 4:07PM GMT 09 Jan 2009

Source: The Telegraph

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