GUANGZHOU: Forty-four children diagnosed with excessive lead levels in their blood will be treated at government expense, a local city government in Guangdong province has promised.
Results of medical tests on a boy, one of at least 44 children suffering from lead poisoning in Qingyuan of Guangdong province, are shown on Dec 25. The storage-battery maker allegedly behind the poisoning has been told to shut down. [Cao Jing]
The storage-battery maker allegedly responsible for the lead poisoning in the residential community in Qingyuan has been asked to shut down, local authorities said.
The children, aged between four months and 16 years, are living in the Guangjin apartment building in Yinyuan Industrial Park of the Qingyuan Economic Development Zone.
They were diagnosed with high blood-lead content ever since March this year, with one 10-month-old infant showing levels that were five times higher than the permissible limit.
A few adults have also been diagnosed with abnormally high lead levels. The actual number of lead poisoning victims has yet to be determined.
Preliminary investigations have pointed to production at the Zeliang Storage Battery Co, which is situated near the community, as the likely cause of lead poisoning, He Guoxiong, director of the environmental protection bureau of Qingyuan, said on Saturday.
The factory, which was found discharging pollutants, was asked to down its shutters on Friday.
The city government has set up a special team led by a vice-mayor to investigate the issue.
The city's health authorities will send specialists to check the lead levels of people living in the community and adjacent areas.
It will also urge parents to get their wards rechecked, the official said.
Experts from the environmental protection bureau will monitor the soil, water and air quality in the affected area. They will also closely scrutinize enterprises that deal in lead, the official said.
The battery unit's proximity to the residential community means one of the two is likely to be relocated soon, He said.
Construction of the Guangjin apartment building started in 2004 and residents, mostly migrant workers, say they have long suffered due to the suffocating smell emanating from the factories, less than 100 m away.
They say the factories discharged pollutants only at night.
Many had complained to the environmental bureau over the past two years, with no result.
Residents say they had written to top city officials on Oct 26, requesting action on the polluting units.
They also followed that up with letters to the environmental bureau of the Qingyuan Economic Development Zone and other departments the following month.
Following the complaints, the environmental bureau visited two factories on Oct 21. On Oct 29, the bureau issued a notice to the battery firm asking it to comply with the rules before Nov 20.
The battery firm promised to rectify the matter on Nov 2.
Earlier, Guangzhou Daily had reported that the noise pollution and sewage monitoring reports - which was provided by the battery company - issued by the environment monitoring station of the city on Sept 3 showed they both met national standards.
The sulfuric acid mist and lead dust levels at the company also met the required standards, another report dated Nov 5 showed.