Crackdown on battery factories
Guangdong authorities promised to crack down on offending battery factories after the latest lead pollution incident left at least 136 people affected in Zijin county in Heyuan , Guangdong.
The victims - most of them children - in villages close to a battery factory in Linjiang town were found to have excessive lead in their blood on Thursday, Xinhua reported.
The provincial environmental protection department said it would send teams to 160 battery factories across Guangdong. Those having buildings within 300 metres of homes would be shut down. According to the department, there are already a total of 36 polluting battery factories violating environmental law in Foshan and Jiangmen .
The Ministry of Environmental Protection issued a notice on Wednesday saying it would stop approval of environmental assessment studies on all projects in certain prefecture-level cities with major lead pollution, and executives of companies using toxic heavy metal elements would be held accountable in any cases of contamination.
Professor Wang Canfa of the China University of Political Science and Law said the existing measures by both Guangdong and the central government were not enough. 'The key point is that many local authorities have ignored the pollution and protected the factories for years,' Wang said. 'They even try to prevent villagers protesting and fighting for their rights.
The Southern Metropolis News quoted Chen Wentao, deputy director of the Environmental Supervision Bureau of the Guangdong Environmental Protection Department, as saying the Sunnyway battery factory in Zijin county was abiding by all environmental rules, except that it must still move residents at least 500 metres from the factory.
On Sunday, the Zijin county government released a statement saying that only three of 199 villagers tested were affected. But the number of people suffering from lead poisoning climbed as more test results became available. Among 136 people with dangerously high lead levels, 59 were diagnosed with lead poisoning although the criteria for that diagnosis was not spelled out.
On Monday, dozens of villagers who doubted the government's assessment rented a bus to take their children to Guangzhou Children's Hospital for blood tests, with the results showing lead levels as high as 600 micrograms per litre, far in excess of the nation's official 100mcg limit.