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China Admits to “Cancer Villages”

Officials in the most populous nation on Earth have finally owned up to clusters of the disease around areas beset by industrial waste and other pollutants.

By | February 25, 2013

An industrial neighborhood in the Qixia District of Ganjiaxiang site beneath an oil refinery.WIKIMEDIA, VMENKOVChina’s environment ministry has admitted that “cancer villages” exist in the country, after years of foreign and domestic media outlets drawing attention to the harmful, localized effects of pollutants on the populace.

“Poisonous and harmful chemical materials have brought about many water and atmosphere emergencies; . . . certain places are even seeing ‘cancer villages,’” according to a 5-year plan from the ministry that was released last week. It was the first time that a Chinese government agency has admitted to the presence of “cancer villages”—a term first introduced by a journalist highlighting the existence of the disease hot spots by publishing a map in 2009. Many of the cities and towns on the map stand in the shadows of chemical plants or on the shores of polluted waterways.

The new document “shows that the environment ministry has acknowledged that pollution has led to people getting cancer,” environmental lawyer Wang Canfa, who runs an aid centre in Beijing to help victims of pollution, told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “It shows that this issue, of environmental pollution leading to health damages, has drawn attention.”

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