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Human placenta trade still flourishes in eastern China despite nationwide ban, health risks

Hundreds of thousands of human placentas are being sold every year in a booming black market in eastern China despite a national ban on the trade since 2005, according to a news report.

Underground traders operating near the provincial boundaries of Anhui, Jiangsu and Henan have been selling fresh placentas that they acquire from hospitals, medical waste plants and funeral parlors across the country, according to the Shanghai-based news website The Paper.

China’s health authorities banned the placenta trade in 2005 due to concerns about communicable diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV.

A placenta is a temporary organ through which the mother supplies oxygen and food to the fetus during pregnancy. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the consumption of placentas can boost the immune system, which drives this lucrative business. In some recipes, placentas are consumed with soup or made into dumplings.

One trader said his group handled 130,000 placentas last year, acquired from hospitals, medical waste plants and funeral parlors in Hunan, Hubei and Guangdong provinces, The Paper said.

The group paid 80 yuan for each placenta and sold them to Chinese medicine suppliers at a profit, the report said.

The health risks involved remain uncertain because traders have no means of guaranteeing that placentas are virus-free, another trade was quoted as saying. Sellers were only responsible for ensuring that the placenta was genuine, he noted.

On the popular e-commerce platform Taobao, individual placentas have sold in the range of 450 yuan (US$69) to 580 yuan. Sellers charge more for placentas that are verified with test reports, the report said.

Click here for Chinese version

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