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Disabilities in China’s polluted Shanxi Province

Posted by Author on April 25, 2009

By James Reynolds, BBC News, Shanxi, central China, Apr. 23, 2009-

For the Li family, the best part of the day comes at noon.

Every day, after school, Li San San picks up his children from school, jams them all onto the back of his motorbike and drives them through the hills back home.

The kids cling onto each other and laugh as they try not to fall off.

On the main roads nearby, lines of coal trucks head off to the rest of China. The valleys are full of steelworks and heavy industry.

The Li family get back to their home, which is carved into the side of a hill.

Six-year-old Hong Wei eats his noodles and sits quietly in front of his school notebook.

He has a shy smile and hides in his sister’s lap when we try to talk to him.

Hong Wei was born with an extra thumb on his right hand. His elder sister Lixia, who’s 14, was born with a twisted left foot and walks with a heavy limp.

Like many people in Shanxi, this family is too poor to go to the doctors. The parents don’t know why their children were born with defects. They’re simply left to guess.

“The air isn’t good around here,” says Li San San. “When it’s bad, it’s difficult to breathe, it looks gloomy and smoggy out there.”

The province of Shanxi is one of the most polluted places in the world.

The rate of birth defects in this region is six times higher than the national average.

In January, the director of family planning in Shanxi, An Huanxiao, told the China Daily newspaper that the province’s high rate of birth defects was related to environmental pollution. …… (more details from BBC News)

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