Published Date: 2009-09-01 09:02:30
Subject: PRO/MBDS> Lead poisoning - China (04): Yunnan
Archive Number: 20090901.3078
LEAD POISONING - CHINA (04): Yunnan
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Mon 31 Aug 2009
Source: Google News, Agence France-Presse (AFP) [edited]
Parents in southwestern China are accusing a local industrial park of
causing lead poisoning in their children, state media said Monday [31
Aug 2009], in the latest in a slew of similar incidents to spark public ire.
A hospital in Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, has found that 200
out of 1000 children living near the industrial park had elevated
levels of lead in their blood, the China Daily reported.
The results of an investigation by the local bureau of the Ministry
of Environmental Protection were expected this week, the paper said.
But it added that the local bureau has already blamed the excessive
lead levels on other factors such as car exhaust emissions, not
pollution from the industrial park, located in the town of Tongdu.
Parents in Tongdu, however, insist the industrial park is to blame.
The accusations come after 2 similar incidents came to light earlier
in August  -- in northern Shaanxi and in central Hunan province
-- which saw a total of more than 2100 children test positive for
high lead levels.
Villagers have blamed the poisonings on a pair of smelting plants in
the 2 areas.
In the Shaanxi incident, angry villagers stormed the plant, smashing
trucks in protest, according to state media reports.
Pollution-related health scares are common in China, where an
emphasis on economic growth has lead to widespread disregard for
[The above newswire reports the 3rd province in China that identified
lead poisoning cases in children during August 2009. The 1st 2
provinces that reported lead poisoning cases were Shaanxi (see prior
PRO/MBDS posting lead poisoning China (02): Shaanxi 20090821.2956)
and Hunan provinces (see prior PRO/MBDS posting lead poisoning China
(03): Hunan 20090823.2975).
Since 10 Aug 2009, there have been 2405 cases tested positive for
lead poisoning in children in China. There were 1354 cases out of
1956 tested children from Hunan province (as of 20 Aug 2009) , 851
cases out of 1016 tested children from Shaanxi province (as of 19 Aug
2009), and 200 cases out of 1000 tested children from Yunnan province
(as of 31 Aug 2009).
According to the above newswire, approximately 1/5th of the 1000
children in Tongdu township in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan
province (southwestern China), were found to have excessive levels of
lead in their blood. Based on Kunming News (see
hospital management at Tongdu's Healthcare Center for women and
children said that the high blood lead levels (BLLs) among children
in the area were likely due to car exhaust. Some local parents
dismissed the hospital explanation, saying that a nearby industrial
park was to blame.
The greatest increase of environmental levels of lead occurred
between the years 1950 and 2000, and reflected increasing worldwide
use of leaded gasoline. Lead can enter the environment through
releases from mining lead and other metals, and from factories that
make or use lead, lead alloys, or lead compounds.
Lead is released into the air during burning coal, oil, or waste.
Before the use of leaded gasoline was banned, most of the lead
released into the U.S. environment came from vehicle exhaust. Since
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of leaded
gasoline for highway transportation in 1996, the amount of lead
released into the air has decreased further.
The effects of lead are the same whether it enters the body through
breathing or swallowing. The main target for lead toxicity is the
nervous system, both in adults and children. Lead poisoning can
damage the nervous and reproductive systems, and cause high blood
pressure and memory loss. At high levels of exposure, lead can
severely damage the brain and kidneys and ultimately cause death.
Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults. Children
are exposed to lead all through their lives. They can be exposed to
lead in the womb if their mothers have lead in their bodies. Babies
can swallow lead when they breast feed, or eat other foods, and drink
water that contains lead. Babies and children can swallow and breathe
lead in dirt, dust, or sand while they play on the floor or ground
Quoting from The Bellingham Herald (30 Aug 2009) (see
<http://www.bellinghamherald.com/347/story/1048754.html>): "Mining is
one of the biggest industries in Yunnan, a mountainous region that is
home to many of China's ethnic minorities and has large deposits of
zinc, lead, tin and other metals, according to the provincial
government's website. The Yunnan official overseeing the province's
lead prevention office told the Associated Press that up to 60
percent of children under 14 are suffering from lead poisoning in
areas of Yunnan with high mining activity, including Dongchuan, where
the industrial park is located."
According to the newswire above, the source of lead poisoning in
Kunming, Yunnan province is under-investigation by the local bureau
of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
For a map of China with provinces, see
For the interactive HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of China with links to
other ProMED-mail and PRO/MBDS postings in China and surrounding
areas, see <http://healthmap.org/r/00Kq>. - Mod.SCM]