Lead poisoning hits Chinese kids

BEIJING: The number of children showing lead poisoning blamed on a smelting plant in northern China has doubled to more than 600, state media reported.

Tests showed at least

615 children out of 731 living in two villages near the plant in Changqing township, Shaanxi province, had excessive lead levels in their blood, Xinhua news agency said, citing the local Fengxiang county government. A total of

166 were hospitalised while the rest are to be treated at home to rid their bodies of the excess lead, it said today.

Authorities on Wednesday announced the closure of the plant blamed for the poisoning, the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Company. Xinhua said it had yet to be directly established if pollution by the company caused the children’s illness.

The lead levels in the blood of the children tested ranged from 100 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams per litre, compared with normal levels of between zero and 100 milligrams, Xinhua reported.

Above 200 milligrams is considered hazardous, with children more vulnerable to lead poisoning which can harm the nervous system.

Villager Lei Xiaofei said

his nine-year-old daughter was admitted to hospital today after tests revealed high lead levels. “Her blood lead level was 506 milligrams a litre, the highest of all the children tested. I really fear it might do her permanent harm,” he told Xinhua.

Two other children were also admitted with lead levels of 480 and 499.

Residents who lived within 500 metres of the plant were supposed to have been relocated but so far only 156 families have been able to move to new homes, state media reported earlier this week.