Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Follow up on the Chinese lead poisoning

Here is a follow up to a story we had a couple of days ago on the lead poisoning in China. A factory is said to have poisoned 300 children, so far only a fraction of those families have been moved away from the area. Also, people had to take to the streets and into the plant itself to get it shut down to prevent more poisoning.

From this Reuters story we see more about the slow response to the people's safety.

Protests against pollution are increasingly common in China, although the police normally try and nip them in the bud before they become violent. In other cases, officials show up and mollify residents with promises of financial or other aid.

So far only around a quarter of villagers have new homes in a settlement around 1.3 km (0.9 miles) from the factory, and even they may not be safe. Experts will test the site this week, the China Daily said on Tuesday.

Villagers who moved homes say tests on 30 children in the new area showed two-thirds had excessive lead levels in their blood, and at least one had been admitted to hospital.

"Its not safe here," parent Zhang Yongxiang told the paper. "Its not appropriate to move the rest of the families."

A child who swallows large amounts of lead may develop anaemia, muscle weakness and brain damage. Where poisoning occurs, it is usually gradual.

China's pollution and lax product safety standards have long been a source of tension and unrest, particularly when residents of pollution hotspots -- dubbed "cancer villages" because of high disease rates -- feel they are being ignored.

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