Inspectors Alarmed Over Lead-tainted Tea

One-third of the tea sampled recently by Shanghai inspectors was found to contain lead levels exceeding national limits, authorities said Tuesday.

As bad as the problem is, the recent sampling represents an improvement over last year when more than 80 percent of one type of tea violated the lead threshold.

In its latest effort, the Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision spot-checked 53 types of fresh tea from 36 enterprises. Altogether 18 products, or 33 percent, failed to pass inspection.

Only 42.9 percent of Longjing tea, a type of green tea that originated in Hangzhou, and 60 percent of Oolong black tea passed the checks, said bureau spokesman Ji Jian.

Two products came in for special criticism. Longwu Longjing tea produced by Hangzhou Longwu Tea Factory was found to contain 54.7 milligrams of lead per kilogram, and Mingxuan Longjing tea made by the Shanghai Tianyun Tea Co. Ltd. contained 24.8 milligrams - both well above the 2-milligram limit. Hangzhou authorities have been notified and are investigating.

Consumers can return those teas for refunds, according to the bureau.

Yellow Mountain Maofeng tea and Xinqi Tieguanyin tea were listed as "good quality" by the bureau.

"Lead is especially harmful to children and will damage their intellectual development," said Shen Xiaoming, director of Shanghai Children's Medical Center.

As the substance is not excreted from the body, it can cause chronic poisoning among those who drink lead-laced tea over a long period, he said.

Bureau officers said the tea contamination was the result of environmental pollution.

The sources of the problem are tea trees grown too close to roads or factories where lead from car exhaust or smokestacks falls on the leaves, said Sun Yeyao of the bureau's general office.

Some chemical fertilizers also are to blame.

The situation is actually improving because some polluting enterprises near tea plantations have been closed, said the quality bureau's Ji.

Last year, lead content of 83 percent of the Longjing tea tested was at least twice as high as the national limit.

"Even so, there's still a long time to go to decrease lead content in the tea to below the national standard," Ji said. "The problem of environmental pollution cannot be solved in a short period."

The city's gross annual tea consumption has surpassed 10,000 tons, and the average yearly consumption now stands at 800 grams per capita.

( 06/27/2001)

In This Series

Worsening Environment, a Challenge to Chinese People

Hangzhou Farmers to Pick Famous Longjing Tea



Web Link