Battery factory poisons 24 children in China

BEIJING—Twenty-four children have been hospitalized with lead poisoning caused by an illegal battery factory in their east China village, state media said Thursday, in the latest in a string of battery-related poisonings in recent years.

The official Xinhua News Agency said local authorities shut down the Borui Battery Co. Ltd. and another battery factory it did not name in Anhui province’s Huaining county after tests found that at least 200 local children had elevated lead levels, with 24 between the ages of nine months and 16 years requiring hospitalization.

Borui had failed to pass necessary environmental checks and was operating illegally, Xinhua said.

It said both factories were just across the street from a residential area despite regulations that battery plants must be at least 1,600 feet (500 meters) away. It did not say when the factories started operating, or what kind of batteries they produced.

The report did not explain how the children were exposed, but battery factories can pollute the air and soil with their emissions.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of lead, a key component in lead-acid batteries needed for the growing number of vehicles in the country. New cases of lead poisoning regularly occur, underscoring the toll pollution is taking on the health of rural Chinese.

“My son is now very cranky and restless. He yells a lot,” Xinhua quoted Huang Dazhai, the father of an affected 5-year-old boy, as saying.

The boy was found to have 330.9 micrograms of lead per liter of blood. Just 100 micrograms per liter is enough to impair brain development in children.

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