More than 300 children from a county in northwestern China need treatment for lead poisoning that their parents blame on a nearby metal smelter, the China Daily reported yesterday.
China’s pollution and lax product safety standards have long been a source of tension and unrest when parents or residents of pollution hotspots — dubbed “cancer villages” because of high rates of the disease — feel their worries are being ignored.
“Both of my children took physical examinations that showed the lead in their blood far exceeded normal conditions,” the paper quoted farmer Ma Shengqin as saying.
The children have trouble concentrating and sleeping, and their reactions have slowed. Other children have similar symptoms, Ma said.
The sick children all live near the Changqing industrial park in Shaanxi Province and parents have pointed at a lead and zinc smelting plant inside, which was supposed to help relocate villagers living close by in 2006.
So far, only 100 of 581 households have moved, and those left behind say they cannot afford new houses.
Cases involving children are particularly sensitive in a country where many families have only one son or daughter. China was shaken last year by a tainted milk scandal, which killed at least six children and made tens of thousands of others ill.
Fears were first raised in the area around the Changqing industrial park when some worried parents took their children for checks earlier this year and they were diagnosed with lead poisoning, the China Daily and the Xinhua news agency said.
Other parents then also took their children to the doctor.
A child who swallows large amounts of lead may develop anemia, muscle weakness and brain damage. Where poisoning occurs, it is usually gradual.
Those near the Changqing factories who can afford it plan to move their children to new schools further away next month, but others say the tuition would be too expensive.
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