12 Aug 2009

China shuts factory after lead poisons children

9:01 pm on 12 August 2009

China has closed a factory in its northwest which is suspected of causing lead poisoning in more than 300 children.

The sick children all live near the Changqing industrial park in Shaanxi province and parents have pointed at a lead and zinc smelting plant inside.

The Changqing county government was supposed to help relocate villagers living close by in 2006, but the plan is running behind schedule.

State media say the smelter - which produces lead, zinc and coke - opened in 2006 and accounted for 17% of China's gross domestic product.

So far, less than half of the 581 households near the plant have moved, and those left behind say they cannot afford new houses.

China was shaken last year by a tainted milk scandal, that killed at least six children and made tens of thousands of others ill.