MOSCOW, August 14 (RIA Novosti) - A lead smelting plant in China's Shaanxi Province is believed to be responsible for contaminating nearby villages and causing some 600 children to fall ill with lead poisoning, Xinhua said on Friday.
Incidents of lead poisoning among children living close to an industrial park, where the Shaanxi Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Factory is located, first emerged in late July, when parents began getting their children tested. Around 85% of the 731 children tested, 166 of whom have been admitted to hospital, were found to have high levels of lead in their blood.
In an attempt to deal with the suspected environmental contamination, local authorities plan to relocate 425 families living within 500 meters of the plant. The relocation is due to be complete within two years, He Hongnian, from the county authorities said.
"I'm ready to move, the earlier the better, as long as the new place has water, electricity and easier access to transport," said Lu Tao, who lives near the smelting plant.
The cost of relocating the families is expected to be shared between the local authorities and businesses. The county also announced that it would cover the cost of medical treatment for the children.
Lead poisoning can be fatal, in severe cases, as the substance can remain in the system for some time, damaging the nervous and reproductive systems. There are a number of symptoms including severe headaches, stomach and muscle pain, behaviorial problems, anemia and memory loss.
China has a poor record for environmental pollution after many years of economic growth, corruption and lax pollution legislation.