China Admits Pollution-Linked 'Cancer Villages'

The Environment Ministry of China has admitted to the presence of places they refer to as "cancer villages" in a new, official report which examines the effects of rapid industrialism on the environment. According to news source France 24's recent story, the Chinese response comes as a result of increasing discontent over smog, industrial waste, and environmental toxins. The article states that the term "cancer village" is both unprecedented and somewhat ambiguous.

The report did not elaborate on the phenomenon, which has no technical definition but gained prominence in domestic and foreign media after a Chinese journalist posted a map in 2009 pinpointing dozens of such "cancer villages".

But the ministry acknowledged that in general China uses "poisonous and harmful chemical products" that are banned in developed countries and "pose long-term or potential harm to human health and the ecology".

Environmental lawyer Wang Canfa, who runs an aid centre in Beijing for victims of pollution, said Friday it was the first time the "cancer village" phrase had appeared in a ministry document.

"It shows that the environment ministry has acknowledged that pollution has led to people getting cancer," he said. "It shows that this issue, of environmental pollution leading to health damages, has drawn attention."

This acknowledgement from the Chinese government is one which resonates with the environmental problems China faces as a result of toxic processes such as the burning and disposal of plastic refuse, and while the report remained vague about the specific definition of a "cancer village," it easily conjures up imagery of the toxic living conditions being brought about by the introduction of chemicals into the environment. For more information on the Chinese report, please see the full article on France 24 here.

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