94 people living near China lead factory found to have lead poisoning; authorities close plant

Monday, March 15, 2010

94 people in SW China found to have lead poisoning

BEIJING — At least 94 people living near a lead factory, most of them children, have tested positive for lead poisoning, state media said Monday, prompting authorities to order the closure of the plant. Hundreds more people are still waiting for test results.

Reports of lead poisoning have emerged around the country since last year, highlighting the heavy environmental cost of China’s rapid economic development.

Authorities organized medical tests for some 1,600 residents in four villages within an 2,600-foot (800-meter) radius of the Zhongyi Alloy Co. in Longchang county of Sichuan province’s Neijiang city, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Ninety-four residents, including 88 children, were found to be suffering from lead poisoning, while 745 others were waiting for their test results.

Seven children were being treated in the provincial capital of Chengdu, while the others were under observation at home, the report said.

Zhongyi, which authorities suspected was to blame for the lead poisoning, was ordered closed, Xinhua said.

The illnesses were discovered after a local resident was found in a health checkup to have excessive levels of lead and the matter was reported to the county environmental protection bureau.

An official in the Longchang county government’s information office, surnamed Liu, said Monday he had no new information.

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.

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