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Polluted river lifts cancer deaths

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-29 07:34

Studies showed pollution in the Huaihe River in Shenqiu, Henan province, is posing high risks of cancer to villagers living along the river, claiming 1,724 lives in 2010, Beijing News reported on Friday.

"The cancer death rate in Shenqiu is about twice the country's average death rate," said Yang Gonghuan, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said the high cancer rates in these regions correlate with the severe pollution in the river.

"Although the water quality has been improving a little in recent years, it will still take at least 10 years for cancer death rates to get back to a less drastic level," Yang said.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on the water quality of the Huaihe River and cancer death cases.

"Cancer villages", villages where pollution has been linked to high rates of disease, have been frequently reported since 1998.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection first used the term in February, when it said the country's use and production of toxic chemical products were linked with the contamination of drinking water in many villages, causing high rates of cancer-related illnesses and deaths.

Apparently, the Huaihe River region is a typical example of a cancer village.

Huaihe is a major river that starts in Henan province and flows through Anhui and Jiangsu provinces. Economically, it is one of the fastest-developing regions in China.

But, the threat of cancer looms in the many villages that lie along the river.

Liu Yongkai, a villager in Xiawan, Anhui province, told Beijing News that people seldom went to the hospital, but when they do go, they are in the final stages of cancer.

"Generally, it means they have less than three months to live," Liu said.

In the past decade, the village, with a population of less than 1,000, had nearly 200 cancer deaths.

For 76-year-old Yuan Hongliang, the days of drinking water directly from the river have passed.

An environmental protection official, who refused to be named, told Beijing News that after the 1980s, the country became focused on the rapidly developing economy and didn't consider the effects on the environment.

In 1982, the environmental protection bureau, a State-level organization, was established.

In October 2004, the State council asked the four provinces along the Huaihe River to curb water pollution.

Since 2005, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been conducting research on the link between water pollution and cancer with monitoring stations covering 14 counties so far.

According to their study, the lung cancer mortality rate of the female population in Shenqiu increased 20 times in 2005 from 1973.

Although many factories have been closed, the impact left on these areas in the past two or three decades still exists.

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