China hit by new lead poisoning scare

BEIJING — More than 600 people in China, including 103 children, have been found with high and sometimes dangerous levels of lead in their blood, state media said Monday, in the latest environmental health scare.

The victims work at factories that process tinfoil in Shaoxing county in the eastern province of Zhejiang, and some of their children have also been affected, the official China Daily newspaper reported.

Test results showed that 26 adults and 103 children were suffering from severe lead poisoning, and some of these were already being treated in a local hospital, a spokesman for the county health bureau was quoted as saying.

The other workers have been found with moderate lead poisoning, the report said.

The victims were all poisoned after alleged exposure in the factories. The report said China has not yet adopted official standards governing the use of lead in the processing of tinfoil.

The Shaoxing government and health bureaus were unavailable for comment when contacted by AFP.

Excessive levels of lead in the blood are considered hazardous, particularly to children, who can experience stunted growth and mental retardation.

This is the latest poisoning incident to emerge in China, and once again highlights the dark side of the nation’s economic boom.

Rapid industrialisation over the past 30 years has left China, the world’s second-largest economy, with some of the world’s worst water and air pollution and has left widespread environmental damage.

In May, authorities in Zhejiang detained 74 people and suspended work at hundreds of factories after 172 people, including 53 children, fell ill due to lead.

In October 2009, nearly 1,000 children tested positive for lead poisoning in the central province of Henan. Smelting plants in the area were found to be responsible.

Source: AFP

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