U.S. Water News Online
BEIJING-- At least four children among the hundreds of
people made ill by emissions from a lead smelter in western China are
likely to suffer permanent brain damage, state media said.
A top Chinese environmental official said the factory was emitting
800 times the acceptable levels and accused local authorities of
failing to do anything.
Some 250 children were still in hospital weeks after the mass
poisoning case was uncovered in Hui county in Gansu province, the
official Xinhua News Agency said. Four are reported to have more than
450 milligrams of lead per liter of blood -- a level that constitutes
severe poisoning and that usually results in brain damage, Xinhua
At least 877 people from Hui county's villages of Xinsi and Moba,
including 334 children under 14, have tested positive for excessive
amounts of lead in their blood since August.
Xinhua said the 250 hospitalized children, all under 14 years of
age, are being treated with vitamin supplements and most are in
The pollution has been traced to the Hui County Non-Ferrous Metal
Smelting Plant Co., a 10-year-old factory that was allegedly warned
several times by environmental officials to stop discharging
pollutants but continued to do so. The plant has since been
In 2003, the plant released 201 tons of lead into the atmosphere,
800 times acceptable levels, Pan Yue, the deputy director of the
State Environmental Protection Administration, was quoted as saying
by the China Daily newspaper.
He said the case and another in Hunan province where two factories
were found to have been dumping arsenide and other pollutants into a
river for at least a year were "typical examples of pollution
problems caused by a dereliction of duty" by local officials.
"The plants appeared to cause the pollution, but in fact the root
of the problem lies in the local governments and local
protectionism," Pan was quoted as saying.
In the river pollution case, a recent random water quality check
on the Xinqiang River in Hunan's Yueyang county showed its levels of
toxic arsenide were 10 times acceptable standards. The discovery
forced officials to shut down water supplies to 80,000 people in the
area for four days.
The pollution was traced two companies: the Haoyuan Chemical
Company, a sulfuric acid manufacturer, and Taolin Lead-Zinc Ore
Two factory managers, one from each company, have been detained
and could face criminal charges, Pan was quoted as saying.
Hunan officials have promised to severely punish the local
officials responsible, Xinhua said.
There have been no reported arrests or punishments meted out to
the Hui county plant or to county officials. The smelter has
allegedly agreed to compensate affected villagers but details of the
compensation have not been released.
The poisonings added to a string of recent pollution disasters in
China that have prompted violent protests in some areas.
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