615 children have been poisoned by lead in the Chinese province of Shaanxi prompting angry parents to “rampage” the factory responsible.
The children have “dangerously high amounts of lead in their blood”, according to the Guardian. Angry parents stormed the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Company tearing down fences and destroying coal trucks in response to the news.
The Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Company has been found “mainly to blame“, although Chinese officials will not entirely rule out “auto exhausts, home decoration, diet and living habits” as the cause. Nonetheless, residents are being relocated, and the local government is paying for medical bills or providing “milk, dried vegetables and nuts, which are believed to help expel excessive lead from the body.” Unfortunately, relocation may take as long as two years, because the relocation site is also polluted.
Risks of the smelting factory were know from its inception. The Guardian reports:
The authorities are being blamed in part for the incident. The risks were known when the factory started operations in 2003 but the local government was desperate for investment. It promised to rehouse nearby villagers, but after 100 were moved out in 2004 the relocation plan stalled, apparently because of insufficient funds.
Locals appear to have been only vaguely aware of the dangers. After a recent study showed how prevalent the poisoning had become, hundreds of families took their children to hospitals for tests.
The plant was closed on August 6, 2009, a few weeks after the first child was reported with severe lead poisoning. Officials insist that “groundwater, surface water, soil and the company’s waste discharge have all met the national standards,” but Greenpeace says local governments lack funds for adequate heavy metal testing.