SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Children in China’s eastern Jiangsu province are being widely exposed to antibiotics from tainted food and drinking water, potentially harming long-term health, local media reported on Monday, citing research from Shanghai’s Fudan University.
The study, which tested for 21 common antibiotics, including those used for animals, found traces of at least one type in 80 percent of a pool of 505 schoolchildren in Shanghai, China’s modern business hub with a population over 20 million.
China suffers from serious overuse of antibiotics, with doctors prescribing them to half of all outpatients, far above recommended levels, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
A WHO report in November found that nearly two-thirds of Chinese believed antibiotics should be used to treat colds and flu, while one-third thought antibiotics were effective against headaches.
Misuse of antibiotics is becoming a global risk, making the drugs much less effective at treating common infections.
“Beyond the health system, the economic costs of antibiotic resistance are formidable – in China, one prediction estimates the loss of up to a million lives a year by 2050,” the WHO said in the report.
The study from Fudan, one of China’s top universities, included both human and veterinary antibiotics. Some individual antibiotics, including those normally used in farming, were detected in nearly one-third of children tested.
The was published in the journal Environment International.
In 2013, China used 162,000 tons of antibiotics, around half of the world’s total use, state-backed news website ThePaper.cn said. It added that more than 50,000 tons of antibiotics were discharged into China’s waterways and soil.
Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Additional reporting by the Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Richard Borsuk