32 children suffer lead poisoning

The number of children in Shanghai suffering excess levels of lead in their blood has risen to 32 from last Friday’s 25 after 1,115 children in Kangqiao in the Pudong New Area underwent checks, health authorities said yesterday.

The children’s high lead levels were directly caused by a battery manufacturing plant, the Shanghai Johnson Controls International Battery Co in Kangqiao, just one to two kilometers from residential communities, Pudong environmental health experts said yesterday.

Johnson Controls and the Shanghai Xinmingyuan Automobile Accessory Co, a company in the same area which used lead, were ordered to close after the first children were revealed to have lead poisoning.

Seven of the 17 battery plants across the city have been ordered to cease production because of excessive lead discharges.

Officials with the Pudong Environment Protection Bureau said 15 of the 32 children had to be hospitalized immediately, while the other 17 were receiving treatment at home.

Of the 15 children admitted to hospital, eight had been sent home after the first stage of treatment, while the other seven were still being treated in hospital.

One of the 32 children has been detected with lead levels approaching those of serious lead poisoning, which could have resulted in damage to the child’s nervous system and affected his intellectual development.

But doctors said lead poisoning was curable. The children would undergo at least three courses of treatment, with each course taking five to seven days.

Production at Johnson Controls will not resume this year, the environment watchdog said.

The 100-plus employees of the company have either been transferred to the company’s plants in other cities or have been allowed to take three-month vacations.

The employees on vacation would be paid 70 percent of their basic salaries, company officials said.

The affected children’s parents, however, are still protesting online, demanding the government shut down the plant and relocate it away from the Kangqiao area.

“The company has to be relocated or we have to move away from our homes,” said a resident surnamed Zhao, the mother of a 17-month-old baby who was found to have light lead poisoning after blood tests were carried out in hospital.