Wed, December 29, 2010
Lifestyle > Health

CDC finds cancer link to Huai River

2010-12-29 07:38:31 GMT2010-12-29 15:38:31 (Beijing Time)  Global Times

A cow lies dead in the Huai River in Anhui Province in May 2009. Photo: CFP

New findings by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding links between pollution and cancerous tumors could help people in hazard-hit areas win lawsuits and get compensation, analysts said Tuesday.

After five years of research and studies, "we have basic evidence to show that there are connections between pollution and some tumor cases in areas along the Huai River," Yang Gonghuan, deputy director of the CDC, told the Caijing Magazine reported Monday.

"We focused not only on industrial pollution, but also on agricultural pollution and other forms of pollution in daily lives," he added.

Yang told the Global Times that the CDC has designed methods to help more villagers along the Huai River fight cancer.

"We trained local doctors who can diagnose cancer in early stages, improving the chance of better treatments," Yang said.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times that the CDC findings will greatly help China's environmental protection because they could help link a disease with a specific form of pollution.

Wang Canfa, director of the Beijing-based Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, told the Global Times that villagers suffering from cancer could try to seek compensation from polluters or local governments after obtaining evidence connecting their disease to pollution.

However, Wang pointed out that only a few courts are likely to accept these cases due to it being a relatively complex process.

The Huai is a major river in China.

Originating in Henan Province, it flows through Anhui and Jiangsu provinces, and is one of the fastest-developing regions in China.

Yang noted that an inspection mechanism had been established to collect the data, some of which will be published in the near future.

"This is in line with an objective set by the State Council in 2005 to develop a system monitoring the environment and heath," he told Caijing.

According to Caijing, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in 2004 ordered the Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of En-vironmental Protection, Ministry of Water Resources, the National Development and reform Commission and local governments along the Huai River to investigate and find solutions to reported cases of cancer outbreaks in the region.

In one instance of a "cancer village," more than 80 people died from 2001 to 2008 of various cancers in Dongxing village in the city of Yancheng, Jiangsu

Villagers tried to sue a chemical plant near Dongxing for pollution, but they lost the case due to a lack of evidence.

"The crops we grow become toxic because the plant polluted water in the village, but we didn't know how to collect evidence," Duan Degui, one of the villagers, alleged in comments printed in the SMD.

In a report released by the MOH in 2008, cancer was listed as one of the major causes of death among Chinese people living in rural areas.

China's Ministry of Land and Resources released a report in 2007 showing that about 150 million mu (100,000 square kilometers) of cultivated fields had been polluted.

Song Zhaolai, a strategic analyst specializing in government administration, wrote in his book, China's Trend, that many of the plants polluting lands with illegal discharges have close ties with local governments because of their contributions to local GDPs.

Some government officials prioritize economic development over environment protection because their performance is mostly assessed by their GDP numbers, the book said, citing Wang Hongying, director of the Energy and Economics Study Center of the Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences.

On July 3, a leak of 2.4 million gallons of acidic copper waste from Zijin Mining Group's flagship mine in Fujian Province resulted in a polluted river and almost 2,000 metric tons of poisoned fish, reports said.

To cover the fact that the local government failed to supervise Zijin's operations before the incident, some local officials said that the copper waste was toxic to fish, but not to people, ifeng.com reported.

"China has been developing at the expense of the environment. This must be ended now," Ma said. "Both the 11th and the 12th Five-Year Plans include an index for curbing environmental pollution, which is progress for the whole nation."

He said the lack of green technology also makes the treatment of industrial waste too costly, forcing many companies to discharge illegally.

"We have established a database recording pollution cases announced by local governments. There are 70,000 entries now, and 320 companies have been forced to curb pollution," Ma told the Global Times. "However, the Huai River is just one of the many rivers in China that are severely polluted. We still have a long way to go."

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