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Sick kids' parents seek answers

SCORES of angry parents were demanding answers yesterday from government officials in Shanghai's Chongming County after at least 32 children became sick when an asphalt mixing site ramped up production near their kindergarten, local residents told Shanghai Daily.

The facility was shut down last week after parents complained that children attending the Chenjia Town Central Kindergarten had suffered dizziness, skin allergies, bronchitis and nose bleeds since the beginning of May, according to local residents.

A county government spokesman said initial medical reports showed no obvious connection between asphalt poisoning and the illnesses, but further checks would be arranged for students and teachers suffering health problems.

The facility was mixing asphalt for the Shanghai Changjiang Tunnel linking Pudong New Area with Chongming Island, county officials said.

The illnesses, which also affected several teachers, coincided with an increase in asphalt production near the kindergarten, which became filled with the smell of hot tar, witnesses said.

After hearing the parents' complaints, the county government ordered the facility closed, officials said.

The children received health checks from doctors at the city's Xinhua Hospital, and the county education bureau held a parents' meeting yesterday afternoon to explain the results. Nearly all the parents of the 300 or so students at the school were present - and many were unsatisfied with what they heard, according to one father.

The doctors told the group that several teachers and students had experienced problems with their hearts, bronchial passages and skin. But details were lacking, according to Chen Yong, the father of a first-year student at the kindergarten who developed red spots on his skin, tiredness and loss of appetite.

"They put a red cross on my son's report and said it means he is seriously ill," Chen said.

"But there are also statistics that just tell us what is within normal range, and for abnormal results, the report says 'need further examination.'"

The chief question, in his view, is whether the children's symptoms had anything to do with the production site about 50 meters away.

Chen said that around 100 parents remained at the school late into the evening, demanding to see the county governor. They were told to return today.

He said some local adults were also experiencing physical discomfort from the asphalt plant.

"The people living nearby wanted to join us this afternoon but were prevented by the police," he said.


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