From: Associated Press
Published September 12, 2006 12:00 AM

Smelting Plant Blamed for Poisoning Hundreds in China Reported Many Times

BEIJING — A smelting plant in western China that poisoned hundreds of villagers by dumping lead into the air and water was repeatedly reported to local officials during its 10 years of operation, state media said Tuesday.

"They paid no attention," the official China Daily newspaper quoted local farmer Zhou Yongjie as saying.

A local environmental protection official, Yang Hua, told the paper the Huixian County Non-Ferrous Metal Smelting Plant had been ordered to stop discharging pollutants, but it continued to do so in secret. Yang did not say when the order was issued.

At least 877 villagers from Xinsi and Moba in Gansu province have tested positive for excessive amounts of lead in their blood since authorities began investigating in August, the official China Daily newspaper said. Among those poisoned were some 334 children under the age of 14, it said. No deaths have been reported.

Authorities said the Huixian County Non-Ferrous Metal Smelting Plant has been shut down and is being dismantled.

"It must be relocated to a place far from residential areas and water sources," said Ren Longjiang, a State Environmental Protection Administration official was quoted as saying.

Excessive amounts of lead can damage the nervous and reproductive systems and cause high blood pressure and anemia. Lead poisoning is characterized by a blue line around the gums and in severe cases can cause convulsions, coma and death.

The poisonings added to a string of recent pollution disasters in China that have prompted violent protests in some areas.

Source: Associated Press

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