Wk 7 Final Blog Post – Alyssa Rowley

For my final blog, I am going to take a deeper look into how pollution and tuberculosis affects the population of China. China is the world’s largest developing country and continues to reach higher economic growths. With all this positive success in the business world for the people, comes harsh negative consequences for the environment. Several problems regarding China’s environmental health have increased over the years due to such an advancement in development. About 85% of China’s electricity is coal-fired (Bienkowski, 2014). With that being said, air pollution is one of the leading causes to the damaging effects, along with water and soil pollution, and desertification (Kan). Many of China’s top cities contributing to such an influential increase in economic growth have some of the highest rates of pollution. The expansion has led to more energy consumption along with such pollutants that contribute like coal-combustion and motor-vehicle emissions (Chan & Yao). Coal combustion used to be the one element analyzed, but with China’s increasing population, vehicles soon became a top component as well. A corporation called The World Health Organization estimated that 300,000 premature deaths was associated with China’s poor air pollution (Kan).

Chinas water pollution is recorded as unsafe for human contact in over half of the rivers that are monitored, and will cost about 7 percent of the gross domestic product, GDP (Wang, Webber, Finlayson, & Barnett). Even though China has some of the strictest environmental protection laws, they do not necessarily implement these in some rural areas. In 2008, 20.8% of 409 sections monitored for water quality received a grade below V, which is below the absolute poorest grade in Chinese National Standard for Water Quality. Below a V means that the water has practically no serviceable use, and can’t even be used for irrigation (Kan).  Today, roughly 700 million people, which is over half of China’s population, consume water for drinking that is contaminated by 86% with animal and human excreta in rural areas and about 28% contamination in urban areas (Wang & Yang) The reason for such high pollution in the water deals with the growing infrastructures which release toxins, chemicals, and heavy metals, and the depleting sewage treatment organizations.

This pollution more specially affects woman living in China who are pregnant and the outcomes of their pregnancies. Water is crucial in the sustaining and nourishment of life, and the more contaminated it becomes, the harder it is going to be to reverse the damaging effect it has on human health. Drinking contaminated water can greatly impact a newborn who thrives off his or her mom for nutrition. Consuming adulterated water and inhaling potent air significantly increases the risk for newborns to have birth defects as well as premature births and low birth weights. Low birth rates in newborn babies are often known to show impediments later in life, such as asthma and decreased lung function. A study done by a professor at the University of South Carolina revealed that preterm births were 2.5 times more likely in areas of China that were highly polluted in comparison to areas in China that had pollutant rates complying with World Health Organization (WHO) standards (Bienkowski, 2014). Preterm births are the worldwide leader in infant mortality. Thus, the pollution causing preterm babies in China increases not only the chance of birth defects, but also infant mortality. “Birth defects have increased about 70 percent in China over the past two decades, now reaching about 900,000 per year” (Bienkowski, 2014). Neural tube defects are also a very serious condition which is collectively accumulating due to the pollution. Neural tube defects are a birth defect that affects the brain, spine, and/or spinal cord. This type of birth defect is most common in the beginning stages of pregnancy; most woman do not even know she is pregnant yet (Bienkowski, 2014). This also puts a twist on things, if a woman does not know yet she is pregnant, it is okay to assume she is not taking full precautions yet for herself nor for this new baby. Neural tube defects confounded about 13 per every 1,000 births, which is 13 times that of the rate in the United States (Bienkowski, 2014).

Biocultural is a suitable anthropological perspective to explain the comparison between China’s pollution and the complications that arise during women’s pregnancies in the country. Biocultural fits well with this because it dives into how one’s “culture” (country’s beliefs, attitudes) can influence the individual’s health, or “bio.” In a sense, biocultural anthropology aims to figure out how human behavior interacts/influences human health; Principles of Biocultural. This method has overlapped the concepts of biology and culture since the early 1900’s and has offered a more dynamic approach to studying human behavior and development (Lende). Using the biocultural anthropological method, it is easy to see the link between levels of pollution amongst varying cities in China and the birth defect rates in those same cities. Langzhou, China is the most polluted city in the entire country. Many attribute aforementioned pollution rates in Lanzhou to the vast mountain range, assuming the mountains trap the polluted air inside the city limits. The largest cultural contributions the Langzhou’s pollution are traffic and factories. A study done in Langzhou investigated the link between pollution and pregnant women living within. The results showed that 8.4 newborns out of a 1000 suffered from birth defects, mainly congenital heart defects. The study concluded that the pollution was the leading cause to these birth defects which does not even take into account infant mortality (Liang, Wu, Fan, & Zhao 2014). Both traffic and factories associate with the cultural concept of what the city values. Although increased use of motorized vehicles and production in factories negatively affects offspring, Langzhou continues on the same path due to cultural beliefs (i.e. placing production/profit above offspring health). A biocultural anthropologist would observe the situation going on in China regarding birth defects and infant mortality and conclude that the values, attitudes, and patterns of the society need to change in order to reverse this growing problem. Even the slightest change or reduction in China’s pollution can have a strong impact on the health of the population.

Tuberculosis is another health determinate of China that people should be informed about. Tuberculosis is the second severe infectious agent, behind HIV. Tuberculosis is a disease in which it spreads through tiny air particles from one person to another. The disease has the aptitude to be particularly serious which mainly affects the lungs, scientifically known as pulmonary tuberculosis. With each illness or disease there comes different strains, and unfortunately many strains of tuberculosis counterattack the treatment. With this being said, once contracted, it may take several months with increasing amounts of medications to exterminate the disease (Tuberculosis in China, 2016). Tuberculosis is spread when the diseases becomes active by contact through air with a simple sneeze or cough, or by skin contact such as a hand shake or sharing food if said part has been festered. People who have latent TB (tuberculosis) cannot spread the disease from person to person, only active TB can. Symptoms of such disease consist of weight loss, fever and night sweats. If left untreated, tuberculosis can kill about half of those who have been infected.

China is the second leading country when it comes to tuberculosis cases each year, India being the first. Each year alone there are 1 million new cases being reported.  With those 1 million cases, about 1.2% of them are collectively linked with the infection HIV (Hu & Sun, 2013). Those with HIV or AIDS are more likely to become active, meaning that can now spread the disease to others. Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death in older adults in china when it comes to infectious diseases (Case 3). So where does tuberculosis originate from?  China is well known for the relocation of migrant workers, both men and woman, 50% being young females, from the country side into the city. So these migrant workers are a special concern mostly comprised from low income and inadequate protection from security (Zhu, Yang, Chen, Fu & Jiang, 2013). In increase in poverty means that there are poorer rates of detection and adherence to treatment, therefore rising the spread of tuberculosis. Many people from the country are infected with HIV or AIDS primarily due to unprotected sex. HIV and AIDS alone destroys a person immune system making the contraction and spread of tuberculosis very easy. Country workers who enter the city to make money find it very difficult to afford treatment costs and do not receive welfare benefits, eventually causing them to return back to their birth place where they are registered for such benefits (Chelala, 2014). Even back at home, some centers who do offer help are often located too far away for travel. Many people cannot make the commitment and sacrifice traveling, relating back to poor adherence rates. Back home the health related quality is not up to par, one of the reasons many leave to urban areas. The migrate workers in China also have a higher risk spreading the disease because of the type of environment they are in, long hours, and heavy physical workloads, which can be extremely exhausting. The work conditions they are placed in encourage the transmission more so than others. A large part of China’s economy is based on these migrate workers, but if one contracts tuberculosis, they have no other choice but to return back home to their rural parts which isn’t always as helpful as wanted.

The increasing tuberculosis cases in China are extremely important and luckily there have been plans and restrictions in action to help reduce some of these numbers. Like stated above, the migrate workers have to return home to get treated for the disease because they cannot receive treating in urban areas, sadly. The return to home is both negative and positive. Positively they longer can they infect healthy individuals working in the cities, but the return home sometimes does not solve any tribulations at hand.  China’s government has modified the laws pertaining to the control of infectious diseases and are implementing new interventions. One of these interventions advanced the reporting’s of tuberculosis within 24 hours, to insure more precise treatment time (Chelala, 2014). In the large scheme of things, diseases will never reduce their numbers to zero in terms of control or stopping them, but the interventions and systematic cooperation within China can achieve large accomplishments.

Overall, China has made great strides to reduce the amount of tuberculosis with in its country. People who may be at risk who have tested positive for latent TB can receive medication which is fairly inexpensive. People who take medication early in order to prevent certain illnesses or diseases tend to have a higher developed immunity against, or show signs of protection. In the large scheme of things, diseases will never reduce their numbers to zero in terms of controlling or stopping them, but the interventions and systematic cooperation within China can achieve large accomplishments.  Pollution on the other hand is an extremely serious consequence of China’s developing economy. Even the slightest bit of reduction in the amount of pollution created can greatly impact the health of babies, and people in general. These babies would have less difficulties or diseases later in life and have a better general health. Unfortunately, reversing the affects what have already been placed will not make a difference to those previously exposed to such pollutants. The growing infrastructures are great for China and its developing economy, but the main line of importance should be protecting its people and their health. China is a prosperous, flourishing developing nation and with time and the right minds the health issues mentioned plus some could be solved. Any push in the right direction would move mountains, and maybe not right away, but results would soon start to show. The pollution situation in China needs to be addressed as quickly as possible because not only does it affect China, but others surrounding them as well.


Works Cited:

Bienkowski, B. (2014). China’s babies at risk from soot, smog. Retrieved August 05, 2016, from http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/apr/chinas-babies

Chan, C. K., & Yao, X. (2008). Air pollution in mega cities in China. Atmospheric Environment, 42(1), 1-42. doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2007.09.003.

Kan, H. (2009). Environment and Health in China: Challenges and Opportunities. Environ Health Perspect Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(12). Doi:10.1289/ehp.0901615

Lende, D. (n.d.). Biocultural Anthropology – Anthropology – Oxford Bibliographies – obo. Retrieved August 05, 2016, from http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199766567/obo-9780199766567-0095.xml

Liang, Z., Wu, L., Fan, L., & Zhao, Q. (2014). Ambient air pollution and birth defects in Haikou city, Hainan province. BMC Pediatrics BMC Pediatr, 14(1). doi:10.1186/s12887-014-0283-6

Tuberculosis in China. (2016). Retrieved August 10, 2016, from http://www.wpro.who.int/china/mediacentre/factsheets/tuberculosis/en/

Wang, M., Webber, M., Finlayson, B., & Barnett, J. (2008). Rural industries and water pollution in China. Journal of Environmental Management, 86(4), 648-659. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2006.12.019


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