23 Feb 2013

Chinese report acknowledges 'cancer villages'

6:57 pm on 23 February 2013

China's environment ministry appears to have acknowledged the existence of so-called cancer villages after years of public speculation about the impact of pollution in certain areas.

For years campaigners have said cancer rates in some villages near factories and polluted waterways has shot up.

But the term "cancer village" has no technical definition and the ministry's report did not elaborate on it, the BBC reports.

The latest report from the environment ministry said China still has widespread production and consumption of harmful chemicals forbidden in many developed nations.

It said the toxic chemicals have caused many environmental emergencies and acknowledged that such chemicals could pose a long-term risk to human health.

"There are even some serious cases of health and social problems like the emergence of cancer villages in individual regions," it said.

China has witnessed growing public anger over air pollution and industrial waste caused by industrial development.

Media coverage of conditions in these so-called "cancer villages" has been widespread. In 2009, one Chinese journalist published a map identifying dozens of apparently affected villages.

In 2007 the BBC visited the small hamlet of Shangba in southern China where one scientist was studying the cause and effects of pollution on the village.

He found high levels of poisonous heavy metals in the water and believed there was a direct connection between incidences of cancer and mining in the area.