About 2,000 villagers in a county of northwest China's Gansu Province will take tests to determine their blood lead levels after a local smelter polluted their environment.
Most of the people with excessive lead in their blood come from Xinsi and Mouba villages near Shuiyang Town, but the group of 2,000 also includes children and adults from Liugou Village in Shuiyang and Xiannong Village in Chengguan Town, said Hu Xuejun, director of the Huixian Health Bureau on Wednesday.
Those who took blood lead tests since mid-August in Xijing Hospital in neighboring Shaanxi Province or in other hospitals are excluded, said Hu.
The county government has purchased a blood lead level analyzer for this mass test, which began on Tuesday when 25 people were examined, Hu added.
The mass test will take about 20 days, with 100 people being tested per day, according to Hu.
The Huixian County Non-Ferrous Metal Smelting Co. Ltd, was identified as the source of the lead pollution by provincial and state environment authorities. It has been shut down and major items of equipment destroyed.
Investigators said the smelter obtained operating approval 10 years ago but for years had been discharging huge quantities of fumes containing lead particles.
"The local government and environmental department must be held responsible for this long-term pollution," said Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration.
The incident, caused by the negligence and malpractice of both the local government and the environmental department, had done grave harm to the health of the residents, he said.
According to the provincial government, by last Wednesday 258 people had been hospitalized due to excessive amounts of lead in their blood, including 250 children. No more people have been hospitalized since, it said.
The 250 children, all under the age of 14, are being treated at both the Xijing Hospital and at a local county hospital.
Most of the patients are now in a stable condition after being treated with vitamin supplements, according to hospital sources.
(Xinhua News Agency September 21, 2006)