Interesting, albeit grim, news this week in the China Daily: Cancer is now the leading cause of death in the capital according to the 2010 Beijing Health White Paper – not surprising given that the disease kills 7.6 million people around the world annually, making it the number one cause of death worldwide each year.
Nationwide, the leading cause of death nationwide continues to be cerebrovascular disease (i.e. aneurysms caused by hypertension, smoking and/or diabetes), but incidences of cancer have “increased in China by 80 percent over the past 30 years” … with “2.6 million people developing the disease each year and 1.8 million people” dying from it. The article cites the population’s increasingly sedentary lifestyles due to rising prosperity as the main culprit (it’s hardly a coincidence that the past 30 years roughly corresponds to the duration to date of China’s economic reform period).
Beijing’s ongoing air pollution problem is also undoubtedly a contributing factor to rising disease rates. But there’s even worse news: according to treehugger.com, breathing in bad air on a sustained basis can not only lead to “increased risks of stroke, heart attack, and lung disease,” but is now also believed to adversely affect brain function as well.
…Researchers from Ohio State University suspected that inhaling particulate [matter]may have some unexpected consequences that go much deeper. To test their theory, the team of neuroscientists exposed mice to the same types of pollution released from automobiles, power plants, and factories, concentrated to levels not unlike those found in many urban centers throughout the world. What they found was quite alarming. After 10 months in this environment, similar to those faced by millions of people daily, mice showed signs of depression, anxiety, and learning difficulties.
And then there is the seemingly endless stream of food safety scandals. Earlier this week The Beijing Times (via China Daily) ran an article alleging that filtered “gutter oil” made by illegal cooking oil processing plants in Tianjin and Hebei are being sold in local wholesale markets and even a few [unspecified]supermarkets in town.
An insider told the paper that the raw materials for the illegal oil include swill, oil that has been repeatedly fried, leftover pieces of pork from slaughterhouses and poultry fat. The oil is then blended and bleached … Statistics from the capital’s management agency in charge of the city’s appearance said some 1,750 tons of food waste is produced in the city every day and kitchens produce 60 tons of waste oil daily. The agency said the city can only properly process 600 tons of food waste each day.
More troubling, still, is how this recycled oil usually passes inspection and authorities have “no effective way to detect illegal cooking oil … to date” (no word on whether the oil contains the same carcinogenic fungus found in a study conducted last year on recycled restaurant cooking oil).
Lawmakers are once again crying foul, citing a lack of enforcement, awareness and policy loopholes in the wake of this scandal and a three-month probe into domestic food safety sector. Suffice it to say that one should never buy cheap cooking oil in bulk from large wholesale markets – best to stick with the pricier brands in larger supermarkets and/or imported olive oils.
We could go on and on with a litany of depressing domestic health news, but for now, while the sun is shining, we’ll cut the cynicism and wish you a happy worry-free weekend (just don’t forget the sunscreen).