Given the recent headlines, it probably surprises no one that China has 16 of the world's worst pollution hot-spots within its borders, and the negative health effects are beginning to become a major public health threat. In fact, air pollution contributed to over 1.2 million deaths in China in 2010. China recently approved 10 anti-pollution measures in response to persistent public outcry and environmental damage, but these will most likely be implemented over the course of years, and public health risks remain problematic in the meantime.
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There has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of asthma in China over the last 20 years, and estimates that the rates are up by as much as 40 percent over the last five years. Shockingly, prevalence in some cities is 11 percent -- and rising.
Asthma, a potentially fatal disease, is the leading cause of hospitalization among children and carries a significant burden to families and communities in China. Children with asthma have increased rates of school absenteeism, and higher medical costs can be a major cause of stress for families.
Dr. Qian Qian Sun, a pediatrician working at Shandong's Binzhou Medical University Hospital, said in an interview that if her patient's asthma attacks are linked with air pollution, they often try to move to an area away from factories. Other families may take more extreme measures, such as this one reported in China Weekly about a young mother who moved their son to three different cities before sending him to London to control his asthma. The mother, well educated and resourceful, found leaving China to be the only remedy for her son's ailment.