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August 17, 2009

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Smelter blamed for lead poisoning

A SMELTER is mainly to blame for lead poisoning that sickened hundreds of children in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, according to environmental authorities.

But "other factors" cannot be ruled out, such as auto exhausts, home decorations, diet and living habits, Han Qinyou, head of the Baoji Municipal Environmental Protection Monitoring Station, told a press conference over the weekend.

At least 615 children, out of the total 731 under the age of 14 living in two villages near the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Co at Changqing Township of Fengxiang County, have shown excessive amounts of blood lead after medical tests.

Residents from the Madaokou and Sunjianantou villages that are adjacent to the company believe that children's sicknesses are linked to environmental pollution caused by the smelter.

Air problem

"We collected 69 samples of ground water, surface water, soil, air and sewage in the area to check for contamination," Han said.

"The results show that the ground water, surface water, soil and the company's waste discharge have all met national standards, but lead content in the air along the main roads near the company is 6.3 times that of the monitoring sites 350 meters away from the roads."

The smelting plant belongs to Dongling Group, one of the biggest private companies in Shaanxi Province. The plant in Changqing Township began operating in 2006.

Local authorities ordered the closure of the smelting plant on August 6.

Zhao Weiping, vice Communist Party secretary of the Dongling Group, offered an apology to local residents at the press conference.


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