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China Lead Poisoning Caused By Substandard Waste System

"The factory has been there for 11 years and it has been like this all along. I think everyone in this area will be diagnosed with lead poisoning."
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sep 10, 2006
Substandard pollution control at a smelter in northwest China has been identified as the cause of a widening lead poisoning scandal that could affect up to 2,000 people, state media said Sunday. Environmental experts found that the waste disposal system at the Huixian County Non-Ferrous Metal Smelting Plant in poverty-stricken Gansu province did not meet national standards, Xinhua news agency reported.

Pollution from the plant was the source of lead pollution that had already poisoned 368 villagers, including 149 children, and led to hundreds of others in the area seeking medical examinations, the report said.

State Environmental Protection Agency officials also condemned the plant for failing to carry out an environmental assessment after upgrading equipment in 2004, it said.

The plant was ordered to shut down last month and has been dismantled over the last several days.

Locals said the plant had been polluting the region since it was built in 1995.

"The smoke coming out of that factory has been awful for everyone. The ash and dust covers all of our vegetable and grain cropland," a woman surnamed Wang told AFP by phone.

"The factory has been there for 11 years and it has been like this all along. I think everyone in this area will be diagnosed with lead poisoning."

Up to 2,000 people live in two villages near the plant and many are awaiting the results of medical tests that can detect lead content in the blood.

Lead poisoning can lead to various ailments, but is especially dangerous for children as it can stunt mental growth.

Following nearly 25 years of robust economic growth, the Chinese government has vowed to pay more attention to environmental protection as the nation's cities are currently some of the most polluted in the world, while dirty waterways are already exacerbating existing water shortages in many regions.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Over 100,000 villagers in central China have been told not to drink local river water after arsenic from a neighboring chemical plant contaminated the waterway, state press reported Sunday. The government of Yueyang county in populous Hunan province is implementing an emergency plan to deal with the pollution, while fire engines have been dispatched to provide drinking water, Xinhua news agency said.

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