In China’s latest case of mass lead poisoning, at least 600 people have been sickened, including 103 children, from tinfoil processing workshops located in Zhejiang province in the eastern part of the country.
Twenty-five family-operated tinfoil workshops in Zhejiang’s Yangxunqiao town are believed responsible for the heavy metal poisoning. Xinhua News Agency (XNA) reported on Sunday tests showed 26 adults have severe lead poisoning and 494 others have moderate poisoning, according to Huffington Post. All 103 children are suffering from severe lead poisoning.
In recent years, China has seen widespread problems associated with heavy metal contamination. Since 2009, thousands of children have been poisoned because they live near battery factories or metal smelters.
The metal poisoning is particularly difficult for children, with extended treatments necessary which often cause their own side effects. “My son still requires treatment for two more months,” said Shen Guoquan, father of a two year-old boy struck with the poisoning, XNA reports. “He is quite weak and the medicine often makes him throw up.” Lead poisoning can damage muscular, nervous and reproductive systems.
In Zhejiang Province last month, local authorities said eight government officials received punishments ranging from demerits to administrative warnings for lax supervision over the heavy metal poisoning.
Huffpo notes 74 people were detained in May and production was halted at hundreds of battery factories in Zhejiang province when dozens of people became sick from cadmium and lead poisoning.
One of the battery plants, Haijiu Battery Co., Ltd., is a primary producer of motorcycle lead-acid batteries, with an annual production of around 9 million batteries and about 1,000 employees.
In April, the Shanghai Dailyreported statistics from China’s Ministry of Land Resources reveal the country loses 10 million tons of grain annually due to heavy metal pollution found in much of the country’s arable land.
The heavy metal contamination is so severe the Ministry of Environmental Protection held a national conference in March for creating a plan to address the problem. Ministry statistics show heavy metals pollute 12 million tons of grain every year, the equivalent of food for 40 million people. Heavy metals are easily transferred into the human body by breathing or ingestion.
Much of the contamination is concentrated in southern China, particularly in the Pearl River Delta, a much industrialized section of the country.
A group of scientists in 2004 conducted a study and found 30 city parks in Beijing had a “clear accumulation” of heavy metals in their soils, particularly in parks located within historic central areas.