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December 29, 2009

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Checks for children as battery factory ordered to shut down

AUTHORITIES in a south China city yesterday ordered health checks on children living in an industrial park while shutting down a battery factory near residential buildings where 44 children were reported with lead poisoning.

The environmental authority in Qingyuan City of Guangdong Province said the results of the health checks were not yet known, but an unnamed official confirmed the number of sickened kids could be higher than the reported 44, according to Xinhua news agency.

Parents had taken it upon themselves to have their kids tested since last year.

Most of the tested children were under three years old and almost all of them were found sickened with elevated blood lead level.

One 10-month-old baby had 550 micrograms of lead to 1 liter of blood, well over the safe maximum of 100 micrograms, according to the agency report.

There are about 1,000 children living in the building but those older than three years were not tested.

Locals said a test would certainly find them poisoned too.

Parents now fear they were too slow to alert the authorities after the first case emerged.

The report said they had not been aware of the danger of lead poisoning and their suspicions weren't aroused until an increasing number of children were found with lead in their blood after being taken to hospital with unusual diseases.

The Qingyuan government has promised that all children diagnosed with excessive lead levels would be treated at government expense.

The environmental authority said it would scrutinize every chemical factory in the economic development zone to eliminate any potential sources of pollution.

The battery maker which was less than 30 meters away from the apartment buildings has been asked to shut down, local authorities said.

The battery workshop was set up in the industrial park in 1996 and was honored as a "creditable enterprise" by the city government for 10 consecutive years.

It had been awarded a "green-production" certificate issued by China Environmental United Certification Center in 2006.


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