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.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Feb 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...

Interested in reading more?

China Admits to “Cancer Villages”

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?