The dairy industry has pledged to provide free medical treatment to mainland infants made ill by tainted milk powder until they reach adulthood, in the face of mounting pressure from parents and the public for a long-term solution. A compensation fund - set up by the 22 dairy firms implicated in the melamine-in-milk scandal - would pay to treat illnesses caused by the kidney stones children developed from drinking their product, the China Dairy Industry Association said. But parents would have to pay for treatment first and then claim reimbursement, and they would have to use designated hospitals, Xinhua said. The adulteration of the milk - revealed in September but believed to have gone on for some time before that - killed at least six babies and made another 294,000 ill, the authorities say. The government claims the victims will not need lifetime treatment, since in most cases symptoms will disappear within two or three years, and it is unlikely they will last to adulthood. But parents fear the melamine will cause other health problems. Food producers added the chemical, used in the manufacture of plastics and glue, to a substandard product to boost its nitrogen content so it could pass tests for protein content. Many parents are already facing a financial crisis after spending tens of thousands of yuan on operations to remove kidney stones from their children. They say the dairy companies' earlier offer to pay 2,000 yuan (HK$2,275) in compensation to each patient - and 30,000 yuan to children who needed operations - is inadequate. Zhang Li , from rural Fujian province , said her family had borrowed nearly 100,000 yuan for an operation for her daughter. 'The whole family cannot work now because of our daughter,' she said. The government has tried to move faster to end the scandal by putting four top executives of Sanlu Group, the firm at the centre of the scandal, on trial and releasing details of the compensation plan. The 22 companies sent out a public apology via mobile-phone text-messages yesterday. 'We are sorry for the harm we have brought to children,' the message said. 'We offer our sincere apologies and beg for forgiveness.'