Beleaguered by adverse reports all rounds on the steady deterioration on the environmental front, China claims to have launched an action plan to closely monitor environmental effects on human health. The objective would be to ameliorate the harm caused by air or water pollution.
"The National Action Plan on Environment and Health (2007-2015)is intended to control the influence of environmental factors on the human body and reduce environment-related diseases to safeguard the health of the public," said Vice-Minister of Health Chen Xiaohong.
He spoke on behalf of 18 government departments that jointly launched the plan at the third national forum on environment and health.
Under the plan, China will improve laws, regulations and standards on health and the environment. It will also set up a comprehensive network to monitor drinking water safety, air pollution, soil conditions, extreme weather and public hygiene, said xinhua news agency.
Further, the government will act in a "timely and efficiently" manner to analyze and predict the impact on human health caused by environmental problems.
Traditional Chinese medicine will also be applied to research in the field, it said.
Environmental degradation in China has become a major factor affecting human health, especially in some rural areas where the quality of the drinking water is not up to hygiene standards, thus giving rise to diseases such as schistosomiasis.
Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is a disease caused by parasitic worms. Infection with Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium, and S. japonicum causes illness in humans. It is estimated that 200 million people are infected worldwide with that disease.
Also, a large percentage of birth defects in China are believed to be associated with environmental problems, although there are no definitive figures on the exact percentage of defects due to this cause. Statistics show that nearly 1 million babies are born with defects in China each year, of whom just 30 percent can be cured or treated.
Harelips, one of the major birth defects in China, which are often associated with cleft palates, are a common congenital malformation caused by hereditary and environmental factors.
China has 2.4 million children with cleft palates and about 25,000 babies are born with the ailment each year, government statistics show.