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Sat, Jan 02, 2010 - Page 10 News List

China closes down battery maker

AP , BEIJING

Authorities halted production at a battery company in southern China after dozens of children near a factory tested positive for elevated lead levels, including eight with serious poisoning.

Several recent clusters of lead poisoning cases in China have fueled domestic anger over public safety scandals in which children have been the main victims. The incidents also highlight the heavy environmental cost of China’s rapid economic development.

A statement on Thursday from the Qingyuan municipal government in Guangdong Province said Aokelai Power Co was ordered to halt production after local media uncovered unusually high levels of lead in the blood of children living near the factory.

An earlier report by the official Southern Daily* newspaper said 44 children in the area had excessive levels of lead.

The statement on the city’s Web site said government-ordered tests in recent days confirmed 21 children have tested positive for light to moderate lead levels, while eight were found to have serious lead poisoning and will have to be treated in hospital. In all, 246 children have been tested so far.

Excessive amounts of lead in the body can harm the nervous and reproductive systems and cause high blood pressure and anemia. In severe cases, it can lead to convulsions, coma and death.

Last month, Chinese authorities said they would relocate 1,400 families in northern Shaanxi Province who live near a smelter that caused lead poisoning in about 850 children, after protests erupted in August.

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

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