Web Date: May 26, 2011
China Clamps Down On Lead Emissions
In the wake of serious poisonings linked to pollution from a lead-acid battery plant, China is cracking down on industries that use or recycle heavy metals.
The move comes after pollution from a battery plant in eastern China's Zhejiang province caused high blood-lead levels in more than 300 people, nearly a third of them children, China's Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement. Twenty-seven children and 26 adults were hospitalized due to exposure to the neurotoxic metal and are recovering, the ministry said. Most of the poisoned people were employees of the facility and their children. The rest live near the plant, operated by Haijui Battery, in Huzhou City.
In response to the incident, the ministry issued a new regulatory circular that specifies mandatory environmental practices for companies using or recycling lead. This includes the 273 battery factories in Zhejiang province, according to Xinhua, the Chinese government's news agency.
The ministry said it is also beefing up enforcement efforts and will take tough action against facilities that violate environmental requirements. In addition, the ministry is implementing a life-cycle accountability system for heavy metals.
Wherever there are major lead pollution accidents or cases of widespread lead poisoning in a city or prefecture, the facility causing the pollution will be shut down, the ministry explained. In addition, the government will cease approval of construction of any new industrial facilities in the jurisdiction. If poisoning or serious pollution occurs in an area deemed to be a national model city for environmental protection or a demonstration site for ecological development, it will lose this special status, the ministry stated.
The lead poisoning incident in Huzhou City was due to violations of environmental laws, poor protection of workers, and failure of local governments to supervise the plant and relocate residents living "too close" to the plant, said ministry spokesman Tao Detian.
The Haijui Battery facility, which makes batteries for motorcycles, shut down April 29 to correct its pollution problems, Tao said.
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