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Plants shut after lead poisons 160 children

By Cai Wenjun (Shanghai Daily)

15:11, March 05, 2012

Six plants have been shut, production suspended at two others and improvements ordered at a further two after their operations were blamed for causing a high level of lead in the blood of 160 children in Dongtang Town in south China's Guangdong Province.

Lead emissions from the plants and in the environment were the reason why the children became sick, the Renhua County government said.

The children had inhaled lead-contaminated air and eaten food tainted with lead, it said.

The problems came to light on February 17 when parents took their children to be checked after problems such as hair loss. Tests showed the levels of lead in their blood were excessive.

By last Wednesday, 446 children between the ages of 3 and 14 and 85 adults had been screened and nutritional intervention and rehabilitation treatment offered.

According to a preliminary investigation, the natural level of lead in Dongtang is higher than normal as the town sits on a lead-zinc ore belt which raises the background lead content in the soil.

Investigators also found trucks from the Danxia smelter spilled dirt during the transport of zinc concentrate, causing lead pollution in villages along their route.

The Fankou lead zinc mining plant was also found to have problems with the way it disposed of industrial waste.

Four cement plants using materials containing lead and four lead-related plants - Aoke, Jinlida, Hongda and Jinbaicheng - were found to have high concentrations of lead in their waste.

The Danxia smelter and the Fankou lead zinc mining plant have been ordered to renovate their vehicles and workplace ventilation to reduce the impact on the environment.

The Jinbaicheng and Huayuan plants were ordered to suspend production.

Six lead-related plants - Aoke, Jinlida, Hongda and three others not named - were closed.

Lead is especially damaging to children as it can impede learning and affect behavior.

To counter widespread public anger, the national government promised a crackdown on lead pollution.

An industry body said last May that China might shut up to 75 percent of lead-acid battery plants over the next two or three years, with waste battery collecting and recycling plants also reducing the problem.


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