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2009 Jun 24 - Birth defects in China's Shanxi show human price of coal

Birth defects in China's Shanxi show human price of coal

GAOJIAGOU, China, June 23 Ten-year old Yilong is already a statistic.

Born at the centre of China's coal industry, the boy is mentally handicapped and is unable to speak. He is one of many such children in Shanxi province, where coal has brought riches to a few, jobs for many, and environmental pollution that experts say has led to a high number of babies born with birth defects.

Experts say coal mining and processing has given Shanxi a rate of birth defects six times higher than China's national average, which is already high by global standards.

"They looked normal when they were born. But they were still unable to talk or walk over a year later," said farmer Hu Yongliang, 38, whose two older children are mentally handicapped.

"They learnt to walk at the age of six or seven. They are very weak. Nobody knows what the problem is."

Hu's thirteen-year-old daughter Yimei can only say one word, while her brother Yilong is unable to talk at all. The two spend most of the day playing in their small courtyard, where their mother Wang Caiying tends to their every need and tries to shield them from the neighbours' prejudice.

"I never let them go out, I don't want people to laugh at my children. They stay in this courtyard every day," said Wang, who looks older than her 36 years.

"I am especially worried about my son. He doesn't know how to take care of himself. I have to do everything for him."

The number of birth defects in Chinese infants soared nearly 40 per cent from 2001 to 2006, China's National Population and Family Planning Commission said in a 2007 report.

The rate of babies born with birth defects rose from 104.9 per 10,000 births in 2001, to 145.5 in 2006, affecting nearly one in 10 families, the report said.

Infants with birth defects accounted for about 4 to 6 per cent of total births every year, or 800,000 to 1.2 million babies, higher than World Health Organisation estimates that about 3 to 5 per cent of children worldwide are born with birth defects.

"The fact that the rate of birth defects in Shanxi province is higher is related to environmental pollution caused by the high level of energy production and burning of coal," said Pan Xiaochuan, a professor from Peking University's Occupational and Environmental health department. Pan has been doing research into the health effects of pollution in Shanxi for several years.

Neural tube defects were the most common form of defect found in babies in Shanxi, Pan said, though congenital heart disease, additional fingers and toes, and cleft palettes were also common.


China, home to some of the world's most polluted cities, has pledged to cut emissions and clean up its environment, laid waste by decades of breakneck development.

But lax local enforcement and an insatiable demand for energy to feed its booming economy undermine environmental policy goals.

China's ministry of health last week said it would give folic acid supplements to 12 million rural women to try to reduce the rate of defects, especially the neurological defects that are most common and easily prevented with such supplements.

Defects often strike in the poorest families, who can barely afford medical fees let alone care for their children once they reach adulthood.

The meager 10,000 yuan (RM5,170) a year Hu earns transporting goods leaves almost nothing to pay for medical expenses for his two children.

The family's hopes are now pinned on their youngest, a six-month old boy named Yiwu, whose blood tests show he was spared his siblings' afflictions. His parents want Yiwu to be a doctor when he grows up.

Like many other villages in southwest Shanxi, Gaojiagou is surrounded by at least a dozen mines that spew out millions of tonnes of coal every year to feed China's power plants and steel mills.

Many Gaojiagou villagers suffer from coughs or respiratory illnesses caused by the dust that clouds the air. Their water source has also been polluted by mining, they say.

"Before every family got drinking water from the well in the courtyard," Hao said as water the color of weak tea rushed out of a hose into a metal washbasin. "But now the water in the well is so polluted by the coal mines and washeries around our village, we cannot drink it any more." Reuters

SAPP is against dirty coal ...more

Coal's Assault on Human Health
Coal pollutants affect all major body organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. This conclusion emerges from our reassessment of the widely recognized health threats from coal. Each step of the coal lifecycle-mining, transportation, washing, combustion, and disposing of post combustion wastes-impacts human health. Coal combustion in particular contributes to diseases affecting large portions of the U.S. population, including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, compounding the major public health challenges of our time. It interferes with lung development, increases the risk of heart attacks, and compromises intellectual capacity.

Oxidative stress and inflammation are indicated as possible mechanisms in the exacerbation and development of many of the diseases under review. In addition, the report addresses another, less widely recognized health threat from coal: the contribution of coal combustion to global warming, and the current and predicted health effects of global warming...more

State's sovereign rights on oil ....

Stop the Coal-fired Power Plant in Sandakan....

  • Destruction of famous tourist attraction sites

  • Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre

  • Kinabatangan Ramsar Site, Sukau Resorts

  • Island Resorts off Sandakan, Selingan Turtle Island...

SAPP Policies

SAPP's 17 point Manifesto - Sabah deserves better in terms of more equitable distribution of opportunities, in social, economic and infrastructural development and a better quality of life. [BM][Chinese]

SAPP's Economic Plan for Sabah - SAPP aims to achieve economic prosperity and financial self-reliance for Sabah. Version in [BM] [Chinese]

SAPP's Land Reform Policy - To promote and protect the rights and interests of local natives and other citizens in Sabah [BM][Chinese]

On Oil Royalty - SAPP is not giving up its struggle for more oil royalty payment for Sabah.

SAPP's Eight (8) Points Declaration - Whereas our mission is to establish a trustworthy govt and a progressive ...

SAPP's 14 point memo in 2006 - Time for Direct Preventive Actions

SAPP Constitution (booklet)

Our Sabah..

Books on ....
RCI Report on Immigrants in Sabah
The Birth of Malaysia
Malaysia Agreement Article 1-11
The Original Agreement of Malaysia
Heroes of Kinabalu 神山美烈誌
Schedule 9 of the Federal Constitution

more on ...
Twenty points safeguard
20 Perkara
Illegals & IC issues
Bernas Monopoly
No to coal-fired plant
Sabah Gas pipeline
3 million acres oil blocks ceded
The Formation of Msia & Devt in Sabah
Proclamation of Msia 1963...details
Restore Sabah's right to appoint JCs,
Ex-minister: Review 20-point
Supply Sarawak power to Sabah...
Sedition Act 1948
Continental Shelf Act 83 (1966)
Petroleum Development Act 144 (1974)
Petroleum Oil Agreement (1976)


SAPP bid to discuss Sabah claim rejected
Take action against anti-Malaysia elements
Call for Philippines Consulate in Sabah
Get the RM1 billion and solve the QEH debacle
SAPP's objection of coal-fired plants in Sabah
SAPP: Explain the RM 601 loan to KL company
The missing billion ringgit "special grant"
SAPP on SEDIA Bill 2009
SAPP supports the call for the abolishment of Cabotage Policy
Probe illegals having Mykad also
Political Autonomy for Sabah
Sabah Schools still awaiting share of RM30 million
Special fund: Eric wants ACA probe
Oil royalty: SAPP not giving up
Scrap Bernas monopoly on rice
More News in Search Archive.....

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