News24

Children get lead poisoning in China

2011-01-06 10:39

Beijing - Twenty-eight children, some as young as nine months old, have been hospitalised in eastern China for lead poisoning blamed on an unlicensed battery factory, state media said on Thursday.

Doctors first detected abnormally high lead levels in the blood of three children in the town of Gaohe in Anhui province in December, prompting authorities to carry out tests on 280 children, Xinhua news agency said.

More than 200 were found to have excessive lead in their blood, and those hospitalised - aged nine months to 16 years - were suffering from "moderate to severe" lead poisoning, the report said, citing a hospital official.

Inspectors from the local environmental protection bureau found that Borui Battery Co Ltd, which had been operating illegally, was the cause of the problem. They closed down the plant as well as another factory in the area.

Excessive levels of lead in the blood are considered hazardous, particularly to children, who can experience stunted growth and even mental retardation.

In October 2009, nearly 1 000 children tested positive for lead poisoning in the central province of Henan. Smelting plants in the area were found to be responsible.

Such incidents have exposed the dark side of the country's economic boom.

Rapid industrialisation over the last 30 years has left China, the world's second-largest economy, with some of the world's worst water and air pollution and has left widespread environmental damage.