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Lead poisoning persists in relocation site, villagers claim
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About 1,000 people in Fengxiang county, Shaanxi province, who are to be relocated due to lead poisoning that sickened 615 children, may face a new threat of lead contamination, villagers said yesterday.

Some children who have lived close to the relocation site since 2004 showed high concentrations of lead in their blood as well, some parents told China Daily yesterday.

Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Factory is mainly to blame for the lead poisoning incident in Fengxiang, Shaanxi province, environment authorities said on Saturday.

The county government promised last week to speed up relocation and to ensure that all the remaining 425 families would be relocated to a new site 1,350 m away from the smelter within two years.

The new site is near Yuanshang village.

In 2004, the government moved about 100 families who were living close to the plant to the relocation site. Plans to relocate more families living near the plant stalled afterward.

"The medical test made by doctors from Xi'an last week showed that about 20 out of 30 children here have excessive lead in blood and 10 have more than 200 mg lead in blood per liter," said Zhang Yongxiang, a parent who moved to Yuanshang five years ago.

"One girl in our yard has been taken to Fengxiang Hospital for treatment because her lead content is 306 mg per liter," he said.

The normal lead content in blood ranges from 0 to 100 mg per liter. It is harmful to people's health if the content is higher than 200 mg per liter. Usually, children are more vulnerable to excessive lead than adults.

"It's not safe here," Zhang told China Daily. "So it's not appropriate to move the rest of the families here."

The county government could not be reached for comment yesterday, but it has said that it would ask experts to test the safety of the relocation site. The tests will be conducted this week.

Some villagers believe they deserve compensation because they say that the government has not fulfilled its duty.

"We have the right to claim compensation because our children suffered lead poisoning that could have been avoided," Ma said.

But Wang Mingming, a press official of the county, told China Daily that they had not considered any compensation plan for victims so far.

"The priority at present is focusing on proper treatment for the children," Wang said.

About 160 children are receiving free treatment in Fengxiang Hospital, as promised by the local government.

Doctors are not using lead-removing medicine and children have only been injected with vitamins and glucose, said Zhang Yuxiong, a parent in Sunjia Nantou village.

"This doesn't work and I don't know when my child will be cured," he said. "So the government must speed up the treatment process before the next semester begins."

The Ministry of Health issued guidelines in 2006 on children's lead poisoning prevention and treatment.

It stipulates children in high-risk places of lead contamination should be regularly screened for possible high blood lead concentration.

Excessive amounts of lead in the body can harm the nervous and reproductive systems and cause high blood pressure and anemia. In severe cases, it can lead to convulsions, coma and even death.

(China Daily August 17, 2009)

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