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Page last updated at 09:46 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 10:46 UK

'Hundreds ill' near China smelter

The Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Company in Shaanxi province - 18 August 2009
This smelter in Shaanxi province is also blamed for lead poisoning

Authorities in China have closed a second metal smelter after more than 1,300 children fell sick with lead poisoning, state media have reported.

The children were living near a manganese plant near Wugang, in Hunan province, Xinhua news agency said.

Two executives of the plant have been detained over the poisoning.

It follows the closure of another smelter in northern Shaanxi province, where more than 600 children were found to have lead poisoning.

In both cases, the smelters were closed after angry parents confronted authorities over their children's illnesses.

Lead poisoning can cause a range of health problems, from learning disabilities to seizures. Children under six are most at risk.

Air, soil and water pollution is common in China, which has seen rapid economic growth over the past few decades.

Protests

An official in Wenping, part of Wugang city in Hunan, said that 1,354 children living in four villages near the Wugang Manganese Smeltering Plant had excessive levels of lead in their blood, Xinhua said.

All the children are under 14 years old.

Map

Adults in the area began to suspect the smelter as the cause of a rash of illnesses among their children and on 8 August blocked a road in protest.

One man told the China Daily newspaper that his 10-month-old daughter became sick and started losing her hair.

The smelter, which had been operating since May last year without approval from the local environmental protection bureau, was closed on 13 August.

On Monday, angry parents in Shaanxi province broke into the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Company, near the city of Baoji.

More than 600 children were found to have lead poisoning, with at least 150 of them treated in hospital.

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Children in Fengxiang county have been made sick by extremely high levels of lead in their blood



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