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Punishment Urged in Child Lead-poisoning Factory Case

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) urged local government yesterday to punish a lead factory in Jiaozuo, Henan Province, in central China, which endangered a nearby village with its pollution.


The Oriental Golden Lead Co Ltd, whose main product is electrolytic lead, started construction in Mafang village in June 2003 without any assessment of its environmental impact with regard to both construction and production from the local environmental protection bureau. In April 2004, the factory began its production, resulting in excessive emission of sulphur dioxide and lead powder.


A SEPA spokesman said building the factory without authoritative approval and producing pollutants that hurt villagers' health and influenced the growth of agricultural products violated environmental laws and regulations.


Enforcement of the law lies with the local Public Security Bureau.


Villagers told China Central Television (CCTV) that most children had to leave their homes and go to other places for education because the village's environment was ruined and their health was in danger.


CCTV asked some experts to conduct tests on the children's blood. The lead content was beyond the standard for children 100 milligrams per liter of blood.


In the examination of the 259 children in the village, more than four out of five were plagued with lead poisoning, CCTV reported. Eight of the children had more than 300 milligrams of lead per liter.


"It is very dangerous for a lead factory to be built such a short distance from where people live," Fu Baohua, director of the Research Centre of Prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases in Henan Province, said in the report. "Children's respiratory systems are not mature, so they easily inhale excessive lead powder or dust."


The factory was built beside a power plant and railway very near the village a location that Guo Xiaodong, secretary of the Communist Party Committee of the town, said the company decided on its own. Normally, local environmental, health and land resources officials would determine the location.


"At first, we did not know the factory was a serious polluter," Guo said.


"It is because of our poor experiences. We were not sure about the project," said Wang Guolong, an official from the Environmental Protection Bureau in Jiaozuo, in explaining why the bureau finally approved the project.


The SEPA had already punished related staff on the local level for approving the project in violation of environmental regulations.


(China Daily October 19, 2005)

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