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Health & Environment

Rising birth defects in mainland China blamed on pollution, unhealthy living


Parents tend their babies in a crowded hospital

Pollution and unhealthy lifestyle choices have contributed to a big rise in the incidence of birth defects on the mainland in the past 15 years, experts say.

Last year, birth defects were detected in 1.53 per cent of newborns in their first seven days of life, up from 1.09 per cent in 2000 and 0.87 per cent in 1996, the Ministry of Health said in September.

It said this rose to 5.6 per cent in the first five years of life because some conditions were hard to spot early on, but did not provide historical comparisons.

Citing World Health Organisation statistics, the ministry said international figures were 6.42 per cent in poor countries, 5.57 per cent in middle-income countries and 4.72 per cent in rich countries.

There are about 16 million babies born on the mainland every year.

Ma Duan, deputy director of the Research Centre for Birth Defects at Shanghai’s Fudan University, said that besides improved testing technology, which helped diagnose more birth defects, the deteriorating situation could also have been caused by pollution and some “personal lifestyle factors”.

“Many birth defect cases may have a genetic background, but I think they are more related to pollution,” he said. “Pollution is a prevalent problem across our country. In big cities, the quality of air and water is still not satisfactory, even though the authorities have launched campaigns to clean up the environment. In small cities and rural areas, the situation is even worse.”

Ma said work pressures and addictions to tobacco, alcohol, hard drugs and online games could also lead to birth defects.

Qian Laidi, who runs birth defect consultations at Shanghai Red House Maternity Hospital, agreed pollution was a key culprit. She said young people tended to eat junk food but did little exercise in their spare time, resulting in poor quality of ovarian follicles and sperm.

The health ministry highlighted its efforts to prevent birth defects, with one programme that provided folic acid pills to 24 million rural women over the past three years resulting in a dramatic reduction in neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

Duan Tao, president of Shanghai No1 Maternity Hospital, said the most common birth defects included congenital heart disease, cleft palate, having too many fingers or toes, neural tube defects and hydrocephalus.

“The golden period in preventing birth defects is the time before pregnancy and the first three months of pregnancy,” Duan said.

Authorities have been strengthening a “three-tier prevention system”, featuring pre-pregnancy advice, pregnancy check-ups and newborn baby check-ups in order to decrease the incidence of birth defects.

Compulsory pre-marriage check-ups were abandoned in 2003 amid accusations they were an abuse of human rights. But some doctors expressed concerns that the end of compulsory check-ups would result in more birth defects. Cities including Beijing and Shanghai now offer free, voluntary check-ups to couples intending to have babies.

Last year, 8.89 million people had pre-marriage examinations, roughly a third of the 26 million people registering marriages, the health ministry said. Nine per cent were found to have medical conditions that would affect their children.

Ma said pre-marriage check-ups were effective in preventing genetic diseases, but birth defects included many other kinds of diseases and the check-ups could not find all the potential problems. “We can’t rely on pre-marriage check-ups to wipe out all birth defects,” he said.

Qian said ultrasonic and blood tests could not identify some defects, such as a club foot.

“For those would-be mothers diagnosed with a problematic fetus, we will discuss with paediatricians whether the pregnancy should be terminated,” Qian said. “We will tell the family our advice, and the family themselves make the decision.”

She said she had seen families suffer from having babies with birth defects.

“I once met with a wealthy family from Zhejiang. They have a baby with Down’s syndrome and the baby’s mother quit her job to look after him,” she said. “The boy’s illness has brought the family heavy burdens and they say they feel a loss of face and have lived in agony ever since.”

Source: SCMP “China’s birth defects blamed on pollution, unhealthy living”
 

About chankaiyee2

Author of the book "Tiananmen's Tremendous Achievements" about how with the help of Tiananmen Protests, talented scholars with moral integrity seized power in the Party and state and brought prosperity to China. The second edition of the book will be published within a few days to mark the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Protests All the parts in the first edition remain in the second edition with a few changes due to information available later and better understanding. There are also some changes for improvements of style. The new parts are Chapters 12-19 on events in China after the first edition was published: The fierce power struggle for succession between reformists and conservatives; Xi Jinping winning all elders’ support during his mysterious disappearance for 2 weeks in early September, 2012; and Xi Jinping Cyclone. Chan Kai Yee's new book: SPACE ERA STRATEGY: The Way China Beats The US An eye-opening book that tells the truth how the US is losing to China. The US is losing as it adopts the outdated strategy of Air-Sea Battle while China adopts the space era strategy to pursue integrated space and air capabilities: It is losing due to its diplomacy that has given rise to Russian-Chinese alliance. US outdated strategy has enabled China to catch up and surpass the US in key weapons: Hypersonic weapons (HGV) that Pentagon regards as the weapon that will dominate the world in the future. Aerospaceplane in China’s development of space-air bomber that can engage enemy anywhere in the world within an hour and destroy an entire aircraft carrier battle group within minutes. Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, anti-ASAT weapons, stealth aircrafts, drones, AEW&C, etc. The book gives detailed descriptions of China’s weapon development based on information mainly from Chinese sources that the author monitors closely. U.S. Must Not Be Beaten by China! China is not a democracy. Its political system cannot prevent the emergence of a despotic leader or stop such a leader when he begins to bring disasters to people. A few decades ago, Mao Zedong, the worst tyrant in world history did emerge and bring disasters to Chinese people. He wanted to fight a nuclear war to replace capitalism with communism but could not bring nuclear holocaust to world people as China was too weak and poor at that time. If a despot like Mao Zedong emerges when China has surpassed the US in military strength, world people will suffer the misery experienced by Chinese people in Mao era. China surpassing the US in GDP is not something to worry about as China has the heavy burden to satisfy its huge population, but China surpassing the US in military strength will be world people’s greatest concern if China remains an autocracy. US people are of much better quality than Chinese people. What they lack is a wise leader to adopt the correct strategy and diplomacy and the creative ways to use its resources in developing its military capabilities. I hope that with the emergence of a great leader, the US can put an end to its decline and remain number one in the world. China, US, space era strategy, air-sea battle, space-air bomber, arms race, weapon development, chan kai yee

Discussion

One thought on “Rising birth defects in mainland China blamed on pollution, unhealthy living

  1. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

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    Posted by OyiaBrown | November 11, 2012, 6:38 pm

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