Birth Defects and Pollution in China

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 10/31/2007 03:19:00 PM
What is the price of pollution-powered progress? The answer, according to Chinese authorities, includes a rise in birth rate defects likely tied to greater air pollution. In particular, China's boom in coal mines needs to be singled out. You often hear about an environmental Kuznets curve where development is initially accompanied by rising levels of pollution as development progresses but tapers off at later stages once folks become more cognizant of environmental issues. The common worry is that a totalitarian government like China's would not allow such concerns to be voiced. See the example of local authorities jailing an environmentalist for pointing out flagrant pollution. From Agence France Presse:
Birth defects in heavily polluted China have increased by nearly 40 percent since 2001, with a deformed baby born every 30 seconds, state media reported on Tuesday.The rate of defects appeared to increase near the country's countless coal mines, which produce the bulk of China's energy but are also responsible for serious air and water pollution, the China Daily newspaper said, quoting government officials.

Birth defects nationwide have increased from 104.9 per 10,000 births in 2001 to 145.5 last year, it said, citing a report by the National Population and Family Planning Commission.They affect about one million of the 20 million babies born every year, with about 300,000 babies suffering from "visible deformities.""A baby with birth defects is born every 30 seconds in China and the situation has worsened year by year," said Jiang Fan, deputy head of the commission and author of the report.

About 30-40 percent of the deformed children born each year die shortly after birth.There is a correlation between birth defects and proximity to environmentally degraded areas, said An Huanxiao, head of family planning in the heavily polluted northern province of Shanxi, source of much of the nation's coal. Shanxi tops the nation in birth defects, Xinhua said. A correlation can also be drawn with parents' poverty and low education, An was quoted as saying. China suffers from serious pollution, the price of its stunning economic rise, with air quality in major cities regularly exceeding danger levels and millions of people lacking access to clean water.