BEIJING, July 5 (Xinhua) -- A battery manufacturer is being blamed for the lead poisoning of four children aged one to six in Gao'er village, eastern China's Jiangsu Province.
The local government has ordered the Nile Battery Co. to suspend operations and has been providing free medical checkups for residents. The plant opened near the village in 2007 with investment from an entrepreneur from Jiangsu's Taicang city. The factory head, surnamed Hu, has gone missing since June 29, according to Monday's China Daily.
Chen Lin, whose house is located about 150 meters from the factory, did not know the vomiting and loss of appetite of her children, aged one and six, were caused by pollution.
The 30-year-old came to the realization when a medical promotion campaign provided the family with free checkups in June and a blood test found excessive lead in the children.
"Even now, all I can do is lock the older one up at home to keep him from playing outside and keep my baby in my arms,"Chen said.
After the initial checkup, she took her children to Suzhou Jiulong Hospital for more tests. Medical certificates issued on June 16 showed the one-year-old has 149 micrograms of lead per liter of blood, and the elder son had 160.
Adults are diagnosed with lead poisoning if they have 200 micrograms of lead per liter of blood, while the standard for children is 100. Some developed countries draw the line for children at 60.
Gao'er residents said that while only four of the 61 local children's blood tests confirmed they had more than 100 micrograms of lead per liter, at least eight children show lead poisoning symptoms.
"The acrid odor of lead powder has long forced us to keep our doors and windows closed, and now, the children are getting lead poisoning. We can't take it anymore!" villager Wang Yin said.
"Even if the factory contributes to the national tax revenue and solves our unemployment problems, I'm still opposed to it because it's at the expense of our health."
The factory pays 3 million yuan in taxes annually and employs 300 workers.
Local official Zhou Hao said 61 children in the village had received medical examinations and the government is offering free checkups for adults, too. Zhou also said the government provided 5,000 yuan to every family with a sick child to help cover medical fees.