China punishes 20 officials in lead poisoning case

Published: Saturday 30 June 2007

The Chinese government recently punished 20 officials in the country's north-western province of Gansu after many cases of lead poisoning were reported from the area.

Between March and August last year more than 2,000 people, including some 300 children from the Xinsi, Muba and Liugou villages were found to have excessive levels of lead in their blood. Waste discharge from the 10-year-old smelter of the Huixian Non-ferrous Metal Smelter Company had been polluting the environment of the area since it began operations in 1996.

The chairperson of the company has been charged with destroying environmental resources and 19 other officials--mostly county-level officials and city environmental authorities--were either sacked or given warnings or demerits. The company had violated regulations, never used the anti-pollution equipment--the main cause for the incident--and discharged waste exceeding environmental standards since it began, said Gansu government officials.

In October 2006, it was found that the local environmental protection agency had violated laws by approving the construction of this plant.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has tightened environmental hazard monitoring but agrees that local officials sometime overlook violations.

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