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September 18, 2009

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Villagers protest lead poisoning

HUNDREDS of residents in a township in east China's Fujian Province gathered in front of the local government offices yesterday afternoon to protest a factory they believe caused lead poisoning in several children.

The demonstration took place in Jiaoyang Township, Shanghang County, after at least four children were found to have excessive lead levels in their blood, Xinhua news agency reported. Villagers charged that the pollution came from the nearby Huaqiang Battery Factory.

Officials from Longyan City and Shanghang County governments visited the township yesterday to talk with the villagers but failed to settle the dispute, Xinhua said.

The villagers blocked a highway for several hours in the morning, according to the news agency.

Because of lead poisoning fears, 136 students were absent from the Central Primary School of Jiaoyang Township yesterday and 140 stayed out of kindergarten. The primary school's headmaster, Zou Chaolin, told Xinhua that even more students were absent on Wednesday.

The county government said that among 72 children who had taken blood tests, four exhibited excessive lead levels, or more than 100 micrograms per liter of blood, compared with the normal level of zero to 100mu. The other 68 children recorded levels of 53 to 100mu.

The county government has ordered the environmental protection bureau to increase supervision of the plant.

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

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

The Huanjiang factory was added to the list of steel plants that needed to be shut down in 2008 because it did not meet environmental standards, according to earlier media reports.

Production in the factory has been halted.

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

Earlier, 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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