Children in Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan province, have become the latest victims of a string of lead poisoning cases to hit China this month.
Medics at the Healthcare Center for Women and Children in Tongdu township, part of the city's Dongchuan district, found 200 out of 1,000 kids given routine blood tests between June and August had excessive levels of lead.
The normal lead content ranges from zero to 100 micrograms per liter of blood (mcg/l). A level of more than 100 mcg/l is excessive and more than 200 mcg/l is severe.
"About 200 children have excessive lead in their blood. Their levels are all higher than 100 mcg/l but lower than 200 mcg/l," hospital director Wu Ling told China Daily yesterday.
It is the third report of children suffering lead poisoning this month, with cases also exposed in Fengxiang, Shaanxi province, and Wugang, Hunan province, where around 2,100 youths living beside smelting plants have been affected, with 200 hospitalized.
Officials from the Ministry of Environmental Protection have handed the investigation into the Kunming case over to the local environmental protection bureau.
The results are expected this week, but a spokesman for the bureau at the weekend said the excessive levels of lead in the children's blood had been caused by factors such as car exhaust emissions, and had no direct link with industrial pollutants.
Parents in Tongdu disagreed and blamed the poisoning on a nearby industrial park.
"There are thousands of children in Dongchuan district and other areas, so I wonder why only the kids around the industrial park have been found to have excessive lead in their blood," said a local mother, who asked not to be named. "Who will take care of our children?"
Companies based on the nearby industrial park were unavailable for comment yesterday. Doctors tested the immune systems of 156 of the 200 lead-affected children and found they were in "normal condition", said Wu Ling.
The district government said it had distributed 2,000 sachets of medicine to children that tested positive for excessive lead.
Professor Gu Haibing at Renmin University of China in Beijing said the Chinese public has been widely exposed to lead through industrial waste and urged the government to take stricter measures to prevent pollution accidents.
The Implementation Plan on Controlling Heavy Metal Pollutions, which was passed in principle by the ministry last Friday, demands joint measures by relevant departments to avoid further pollution by heavy metal smelting industries, especially lead poisoning.
The plan is still to be approved by the State Council.