(Jul 17, 2007)

Think-tank says China's pollution hampering productivity

By Alexa Olesen
From AP

BEIJING (AP) - China's filthy air, water and soil is leaving many people sick and unable to work, cutting into the country's economic growth, prompting unrest and could tarnish its image as an exporter, officials from an international economic think-tank said Tuesday.

Mario Amano, deputy secretay-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, said his agency's 18-month review of China's environmental performance confirmed that China's severe pollution has resulted in ''significant damage to human health,'' which would impact its prospects for continued economic growth.

He had no specific figure for the cost of China's pollution.

The Chinese government said last year that pollution cost the country 511.8 billion yuan (US$64 billion or euro50 billion) in economic losses in 2004, about 3 percent of its economy that year. It has not given updated figures.

The full text of the OECD report was released Tuesday. It cited an earlier World Bank report as saying that by 2020 pollution will cause 600,000 premature deaths in urban areas and 20 million cases of respiratory illness a year. The overall cost of health damage will be equal to 13 percent of gross domestic product.

Some 190 million people are estimated to be suffering from illnesses related to dirty drinking water and more than 30,000 children die every year from diarrhea due to polluted water, it said.

Lorents Lorentsen, OECD's environmental director, said China's pollution has cut into productivity, driven up health care costs and triggered social unrest.

''If you have severely polluted air, soil and water, the health of people is affected and that will mean you might be ill, your children might be ill. The impact on productivity and

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