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Lead poisoning highlights development dilemma
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Emissions within national guidelines?

Most people blame the Dongling Smelting Company for the lead poisoning. But at a press conference on the incident the local authority said the situation was complicated.

The Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Plant. [Xinhuanet]

Vice-Secretary of the Dongling plant's Party Committee, Zhao Weiping, apologized to the poisoned children and their families. He said those affected would receive prompt treatment and said Dongling would cooperate with the local government to relocate residents and cut emissions.  

The head of the environmental monitoring team investigating the incident, Han Qinyou, released his team's findings. Han said lead concentrations in ground water, surface water and soil are within national standards and the smelting plant does not exceed national standards on the disposal of liquid and solid waste. The company's own checks revealed that lead emissions in waste water and gas had exceeded standards on three occasions over the past year and the company's annual cumulative lead discharge was 1.11 tons.

Han said the results show lead concentrations in soil were higher than in 2008, but still within national standards. However, concentration of lead in the air near roads is much higher than in other areas.

He said the Dongling Smelting Company stopped production and was implementing an overall improvement program based on the findings of the environmental study.

So if discharges did not exceed standards, what is the explanation for such a serious pollution incident?

Han suggested discharges that accumulated in one particular area had caused the excessive levels of lead in the children's blood. 

On the morning of August 16, the reporter visited the Dongling Smelting Company and found its lead and zinc smelting processes had been shut down. General Manager Sun Hong told the reporter the plant had been designed by architects from Baoji City and met all national industrial standards.

Dongling is a pilot enterprise of the so-called circular economy – which aims to recycle all waste products - in Shaanxi Province. It grossed 6.4 billion yuan (US$937 million) from 2006 to 2008.  

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