Chinese children poisoned with lead

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The Independent Online

Nearly 1,000 children in a central Chinese province have tested positive for excessive lead in their blood in the latest of several poisoning cases involving thousands of children across the country.

The health bureau in Jiyuan City, Henan province, conducted blood tests on 2,743 children under the age of 14 after recent reports of large-scale lead poisoning in neighbouring Shaanxi province. Signs of lead poisoning were found in 968 children who live near three major lead smelters, the official Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

China's rapid economic development has often come at the cost of heavy environmental pollution. Lead poisoning can damage the nervous and reproductive systems and cause high blood pressure and memory loss.

Similar reports of lead poisoning have emerged in Yunnan, Fujian and Shaanxi provinces in recent months and more than 3,000 children have been affected.

Anger in China is growing over public safety scandals in which children have been the main victims. Last month, residents of the village of Shibin in Jiyuan City demonstrated in front of the factories to protest at the pollution. The city has been producing lead for 52 years.

In response to the results, officials suspended production at 32 of 35 electrolytic lead plants and shut down some production at other plants, Duan Xizhong, head of the local Communist Party committee, told Xinhua.

In addition, families with children living within 1,000 yards of the smelters have been moved further away.