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September 28, 2009

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121 children near factory suffer lead poisoning

MORE than 100 children in a township in southeast China's Fujian Province that borders a battery plant were detected with excessive lead in their blood.

Blood samples taken on September 20 from children aged under 14 by the provincial occupational disease and chemical poisoning prevention and control center and the No.2 People's Hospital of Fujian's Longyan City showed 121 among 287 had excessive lead levels, officials said over the weekend.

All of them live in the vicinity of the battery factory in Shanghang County.

Local authorities have shut down the Huaqiang Battery Factory and promised medical treatment and additional nutrition for the child victims and further investigations into pollution source.

On September 17, hundreds of Shanghang residents gathered in front of local government offices to show their anger with the Huaqiang plant they believed caused lead poisoning in children as it ignored government orders on September 10 to suspend production.

The demonstration took place in Jiaoyang Township after at least four children were found to have excessive lead levels in their blood, according to Xinhua news agency.

Because of lead poisoning fears, hundreds of students were absent from local primary and middle schools when the new semester opened early this month.

Many also stayed out of a kindergarten because it is only 800 meters from the battery plant.

The Fujian incident was the fourth such case in China since June, following lead poisonings in southern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the central Hunan Province and northwest China's Shaanxi Province that sickened more than 2,000 children and dozens of workers.

Among them, more than 40 workers at the Huanjiang Steel Plant in Guangxi's Hechi City were found to have excessive lead in their blood. Dilapidated equipment was blamed for the problem.

The Huanjiang factory was added to the list of steel plants that needed to be shut in 2008 because it did not meet environmental standards. Production in that plant has halted.

Shaanxi Province shut a smelting plant amid public anger over heavy metal discharges by the factory that left 851 children ill last month.

Hunan Province closed a smelter and detained two of its executives after more than 1,300 local children suffered lead poisoning.


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