Birth defects on the rise in polluted China-media

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BEIJING, Sept 13 (Reuters) Growing numbers of Chinese children are being born with deformities due to pollution, later pregnancies and unhealthy lifestyles, state media said today quoting a medical expert.

About 1 million Chinese children were born each year with congenital heart problems, cleft palettes, nerve defects, limb abnormalities and other physical defects, director of China's National Centre for Maternity and Infant Health, Li Zhu, told the China Daily.

The number of such congenital deformities was rising and the current occurrence rate of 60 out of every 1,000 births was three times that of developed countries, Li said.

Chinese parents, especially urban couples, were having children later in life, making defects more likely, said the report, which also blamed ''exposure to hazardous pollutants and long-term unhealthy lifestyles''.

About a third of the babies born with such problems died shortly after birth, the paper said, citing experts.

Birth defects affected a tenth of Chinese households and created an annual financial strain of 1 billion yuan (3 million), the Ministry of Health has estimated.

The Financial Times reported in July that China had asked the World Bank not to publish estimates of the number of premature Chinese deaths each year from polluted air and water.

The bank study said about 460,000 Chinese died prematurely each year from water and air pollution and about 300,000 more died from indoor toxins.


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