Data released by Beijing’s Cancer Prevention and Control Research Office indicates that cancer is the leading cause of death in China’s capital, according to Bloomberg Businessweek’s Christina Larson:
Exposure to environmental pollution, as well as changing diet and more sedentary lifestyles, are contributing factors, says Wang Ning, the center’s deputy director. Noting that the number of cancer diagnoses is rising in both rural and urban China, he told China Newsweek (no relation to the U.S.’s Newsweek) on April 7: “In the next 10 years, the cancer burden won’t be lowered—we can only hope to eventually stabilize it.” Wang’s research team estimates that by 2020 the total number of cancer deaths in China will climb from about 2.5 million to 3 million annually.
The levels of two key air pollutants in Beijing rose by nearly 30% in the first three months of the year, and Larson points out that China just suffered its smoggiest March in 52 years. Outdoor air pollution is believed to have led to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, several recent reports have firmed up the link between pollution and birth defects in China.
Reuters reported Wednesday that the effects of soil pollution have also begun to emerge, as evidenced by a new survey that showed toxic heavy metal remnants and traces of banned pesticides in soil samples across China:
Now Zhuang Guotai, head of the ecological department of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said a nationwide soil survey showed the countryside had paid a heavy price for an agricultural revolution that has seen grain production almost double in the last 30 years, despite a much reduced workforce.
Soil pollution is regarded as one of China’s most serious health threats, contaminating the food chain with pesticide and fertilizer run-offs as well as toxic elements like lead, arsenic and cadmium.
The problem is believed to be responsible for the high rate of birth defects and cancer in some of China’s old industrial regions.