New Research Highlights Health Risks Resulting From China’s Pollution
By CWR 2 April, 2010
Two recent publications link pollution to health including the phenomenal rates of cancer and other illnesses and raise concerns that inadequate data is actually underestimating the problem.
The January 2010 special edition of the Journal entitled, Environment and Health in China: An Emerging Research Field, dedicates its entire volume to the link between pollution and health. In her introduction to the edition, Jennifer Holdaway, programme director with the New York-based Social Science Research Council, catalogues China’s severe health impacts. The cause, according to Holdaway, is a confluence of factors such as rapid urbanization, inadequate regulation of pollution, workplace hazards, and poverty.
Holdaway cites World Bank and World Health Organization statistics indicating that the phenomenal rates of cancer and other illnesses in the country are strongly linked to environmental factors such as pollution. There is concern that the problem is little understood and inadequate data is actually underestimating the problem. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as the World Bank are reported to be calling for a focus on environment and health in China.
Holdaway examines why environmental health appears to be out on a limb as far as government policy goes and delves into both the government’s response and institutional barriers to addressing the problem. The remainder of the Journal presents several research papers that examine these and other related issues in depth.
Additionally, the most recent edition of The Green Book of the Environment, published by China’s oldest NGO, Friends of Nature (FON), also throws the spotlight on China’s environmental health woes. In a Global Times report published March 22, FON chairman, Yang Dongping corroborates the Journal’s insights and offers the view that environment-related health problems are a result of long-term accumulation of toxins. The Green Book includes a chronology of major environmental incidents and events in 2009, as well as 27 articles on environmental health, the handling of municipal waste, sustainable consumption, pollution, ecological protection, and environmental policy.
With increasing transparency and public discourse on the issue, 2010 may be the year that environmental health comes into focus.