China’s environment ministry appears to have acknowledged the existence of
so-called “cancer villages” after years of public speculation about the impact
of pollution in certain areas.
. . . widespread production and consumption of harmful chemicals forbidden in many
developed nations are still found in China.
BBC’s Martin Patience in Beijing says that as China has experienced rapid development, stories about so-called cancer villages have become more frequent.
And China has witnessed growing public anger over air pollution and industrial waste caused by industrial development.
Media coverage of conditions in these so-called “cancer villages” has been widespread. In 2009, one Chinese journalist published a map identifying dozens of apparently affected villages.
In 2007 the BBC visited the small hamlet of Shangba in southern China where one scientist was studying the cause and effects of pollution on the village.
He found high levels of poisonous heavy metals in the water and believed there was a direct connection between incidences of cancer and mining in the area.
Until now, there has been little comment from the government on such allegations.
Environmental lawyer Wang Canfa, who runs a pollution aid center in Beijing, told the AFP news agency that it was the first time the “cancer village” phrase had appeared in a ministry document.
Last month – Beijing – and several other cities – were blanketed in smog that soared past levels considered hazardous by the World Health Organization.
The choking pollution provoked a public outcry and led to a highly charged debate about the costs of the country’s rapid economic development.
Chinese tumor experts have confirmed that cancer has overtaken cardiovascular diseases, to become the top killer in the country.
Figures provided by the National Cancer Registry of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, reveal a more worrying ratio of cancer patients than that given by the World Health Organization. Every minute, 6 Chinese are diagnosed with cancer.
Many medical experts point to smoking as the main cause of 560,000 new lung cancer cases every year. Among female cancer patients, 17 percent are suffering from breast cancer. (see video here: http://english.cntv.cn/program/china24/20130204/108309.shtml)
Investigative journalist Deng Fei used the term in 2009, when he published a map pinpointing dozens of toxic villages in China.
Cancer is now the country’s “top killer,” according to a recent report by China Network Television. Nevertheless, Ma Jun, a leading environmentalist in China, told The Telegraph that, despite China’s environmental problems and growing cancer rate, the government typically avoids making a connection between pollution and disease.
Environmental lawyer Wang Canfa told the AFP that this new environmental report is likely the first time the term “cancer village” has been used in a ministry document.
Campaigners have lauded the new report — which not only acknowledged that pollution could pose a risk to human health and the environment, but also outlined a plan to stop the use and production of dozens of toxic chemicals — as a step in the right direction.
“I do think this shows a positive development,” Ma told The Telegraph. “The recognition of the existence of problems is the very first step and the precondition for us to really start solving these problems.”
(re-posted from bbc.co.uk, english.cntv.cn, and Huffington Post. Not my original writing. Photos by Google images)