Lead Emissions Poison 160 Children in Guangdong

Amid concerns about industrial pollution in China due to a recent case of water contamination in Guangxi, lead emissions from factories in Guangdong have poisoned 160 children. This is not the first case of lead poisoning. In 2011, an illegal battery factory affected 24 children and over 200 residents in Anhui. Reuters reports on the most recent incident:

Children from Dongtang town in Renhua country were found to have “elevated” levels of lead in their blood after inhaling lead-contaminated air and eating food tainted with lead, Xinhua said.

Lead poisoning is prevalent in China and has sparked protests in the past among angry parents of children hurt by heavy metal pollution. Lead is especially damaging to children as it can impede learning and affect behaviours.

To counter widespread public anger, Beijing has promised to crack down on lead pollution. An industry body said last May China could shut three quarters of lead-acid battery plants in the next two or three years to cut local lead demand.

China is the world’s largest consumer of refined lead, with 70 percent used for making batteries.

In 2009, protesters broke into a factory that was blamed for poisoning over 600 children. In response to the recent wave of industrial contamination, deputy minister of environmental protection, Wu Xiaoqing, has said that Beijing will crack down on heavy metal pollution. China Daily adds:

“Together with eight other ministries, we will scrutinize several heavy-metal industries this year,mainly targeting illegal operations in acid lead-battery manufacturing, heavy-metal smelting and processing,” Wu told China Daily. He was attending the plenary session of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee on Saturday.

“The heavy metal pollution can accumulate in our environment and last for a long time, and it is also difficult to find out until such poisoning cases are reported,” explained Wu, who is also a CPPCC member. “So we need to strengthen the efforts.”

Over 1,000 enterprises were closed down during the past two years for illegal discharge of toxic heavy metals, according to Wu.