A paint factory in Hunan province, which residents blame for lead poisoning in more than 300 children, has been shut following a state media report on Saturday, according to Xinhua.
Local authorities had allegedly protected the factory for years, with a town chief caught on tape by state media as saying the lead levels in children, which was up to five times the national limit, was likely the result of them chewing on pencils at school.
Su Genlin, the chief of Dapu town, told China Central Television that "when the children were studying in school … [they] put pencils in their mouth and bite, which can also lead to lead poisoning."
Higher authorities summoned Su to an "emergency meeting" yesterday, and he was likely to face punishment over his remark, one of his subordinates told the South China Morning Post yesterday.
Blaming the poisoning on pencils was "certainly inappropriate," the township official said, declining to be named. "We don't know what will happen [to Su]."
The meeting had not yet finished, the official said.
CCTV reported that more than 300 children in Hengdong county's Dapu had been confirmed as suffering from lead poisoned by government hospitals since 2012.
The victims had up to 500 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood, or five times to the national safety threshold.
No English name was given for the company, but it can be translated as Meilun Paint and Chemicals Limited.
An investigation has been launched, the county government said.