China: villagers storm smelting plant to protest lead poisoning

Chinese protesters Aug. 17 broke into a smelting works they blame for the lead poisoning of hundreds of children, smashing trucks and tearing down fences. Villagers around the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Company in Fengxiang county, Shaanxi province, launched their spontaneous protest after the government ruled that emissions from the facility had harmed the health of local people. At least 615 of the 731 children in two nearby villages have been diagnosed with dangerously high amounts of lead in their blood.

The protests were also sparked by news that the poisoning had sparked a suicide attempt by one 19-year-old student, who drank pesticide after her parents refused to pay for her to take a blood test. The government is only offering free tests to children under 14, and there has been no investigation into whether adults might be affected by lead from the smelter, Xinhua reported. (The Guardian, Reuters, Aug. 17)

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