The comments came as the Chinese government announced that it has launched a screening programme in the eight worst affected areas of the country to establish the extent of the problem.
A study by the government released in 2007 found that birth defects had increased nearly 40 per cent from 2001 to 2006, but no speculation was made as to the cause.
Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health in October released the results of another study in the central Chinese city of Chongqing showing that pollution from a coal-fired power plant affected the birth weight, height and motor development skills of babies born nearby.
Coal pollution also kills about 750,000 people in China each year.
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