Birth defects rise in China
Updated: 2006-09-21 07:07

BEIJING - A rising incidence of birth defects in some parts of China is being attributed to environmental pollution, unhealthy lifestyles and poor nutrition.

The trend has led some experts to debate the reintroduction of compulsory pre-marital health checks which were scrapped in 2003, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Figures released by two populous provinces in advance of the publication of national figures by the Ministry of Health next week show alarming rises in the number of birth defects, according to Xinhua.

In east China's Zhejiang province, the incidence of babies with birth defects was 1.15 percent in 2003, rising to 1.33 percent in 2004 and 1.47 percent last year, the report said.

About 480,000 babies are born in Zhejiang each year, with about 7,200 babies born with defects in 2005, it added.

In the southern province of Guangdong, the incidence has risen from 0.96 percent 10 years ago to 2.12 percent in the latest figures.

Cleft palette, neural tube defects, excessive numbers of fingers or toes, congenital heart disease and water on the brain are the top five birth defects among Chinese babies, the report said.

Experts said hereditary diseases, viral infections, environmental pollution, unhealthy lifestyles and poor nutrition were among the main known causes.