Every 30 seconds, a Chinese infant is brought into the world with physical defects owing to the country's environmental pollution, reveals an official of the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC).
According to Jiang Fan, vice-minister of the NPFPC, the soaring birth defects had become a matter of such concern that a free pre-pregnant examination program was being offered to expecting women to control the condition, reports China Daily.
Fan said: "The number of newborns with birth defects is constantly increasing in both urban and rural areas. And the rather alarming increase has forced us to kick off a high-level prevention plan."
Hu Yali, a professor at the Affiliated Drum Tower Hospital of Nanjing University, held the degrading environment responsible for "10 percent of the causes" of physical defects in Chinese infants, as per Takungpao.com.
She said: "Our research shows that chemical waste pollution has been the main factor to influence the health of pregnant women and their babies in some areas."
And An Huanxiao, the director of Shanxi provincial family planning agency, also said: "The problem of birth defects is related to environmental pollution, especially in eight main coal zones."
Boffins at Yale University also traced the problem to air pollution, which, their study found, augmented the risk of under-weight infants being born.
The research revealed: "The higher the level of exposure to nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), the greater is the risk of having low-weight babies."
Meanwhile, unhealthy living habits, unbalanced nutritional diets, and old-age pregnancies were also probable causes leading to birth defects in infants.