Authorities in north China have closed down a smelting plant following complaints of contamination of more than 600 children.
Tests have shown that at least 615 children out of 731 living in two villages near the plant in Shaanxi province's Changqing township have excessive lead levels in their blood.
AdvertisementAuthorities ordered the plant to suspend lead and zinc operations nearly two weeks ago, but angry villagers stormed the smelter Monday and complained it was still producing coke, the official Xinhua news agency said.
One villager quoted in the report said workers had been told not to wear uniforms so as to be less obvious, and added that lights were on in workshops until midnight every day.
The mayor of Baoji city, to which Changqing belongs, said coke production had now been stopped.
"Now we've closed down the plant, we won't allow it to open again until it has been proven it will not harm villagers," Dai Zhengshe was quoted as saying.
On Sunday, Xinhua quoted Han Qinyou, head of an environmental protection monitoring station where the smelting plant is located, as saying the air near the plant was found to contain high lead levels.
The lead levels in the blood of the children tested ranged from 100 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams per litre, compared with normal levels of between zero and 100 milligrams. A total of 166 have been hospitalised.
A reading of more than 200 milligrams is considered hazardous, with children more vulnerable to lead poisoning which can harm the nervous system.