Diantou Village, Henan – photo by Bert van Dijk (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

Smelting factories near villages in rural China are poisoning local Children with illegal heavy metal emissions.

Authorities in Hunan province have even imprisoned victims of lead poisoning who were on their way to receive health checks, according to an article in the Guardian:

The latest results, received on 24 February, revealed that 250 of the 397 children in the village had excess levels of lead in their blood. The victims included four of the five children of Liao Mingxiu, one of those still in police detention.

Reports of thousands of children in China being affected have surfaced over the past year in the provinces of Hunan, Yunnan, Shaanzxi, Sichuan, Guangdong and Henan. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, seizures, as well as brain and kidney damage.Lead enters the air from the chimneys of smelters, which also belch sulfur dioxide, contributing to acid rain.

From a China Daily report:

A green campaign in 2009 found that among the 541 companies in Jiahe, 309 were illegal or could not meet the environmental protection standard.

According to an article by the Associated Press, the Chinese government is investigating cases of children suffering from lead poisoning. Lack of enforcement of environmental standards and the failure of factories and local governments to comply with laws have allowed rampant pollution to continue largely unabated in parts of rural China.

Reports of lead poisoning have emerged from far-flung parts of China since last year, usually rural areas where large, highly polluting factories have been plunked down among farms at the behest of local governments whose performance assessments are based on their ability to deliver economic growth.