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Lead Children Denied Tests by Official In Central China

Posted by Author on August 27, 2009

Radio Free Asia, Aug. 26, 2009-

HONG KONG—Promises by local government officials offering free blood tests to children affected by pollution from smelting plants in the central Chinese province of Hunan have yet to be fulfilled, residents and officials said.

An official at the hospital near worst-hit Wugang township, where more than 1,000 children are believed to have higher-than-normal levels of lead in their blood, said the hospital had not yet been told how to deal with the large numbers of worried parents trying to book tests.

“There are several dozen patients coming for blood tests every day, but I don’t know the actual patient numbers per day,” said an employee who answered the phone at the Wugang People’s Hospital.

“Senior management has requested a survey [of lead poisoning cases], and we will know the procedure in a few days’ time,” she added.

Local officials have promised the closure of privately owned zinc and manganese smelting plants after being hit by a wave of violent clashes between police and angry parents in central Hunan and northern Shaanxi provinces in recent weeks.

Official Chinese media also reported that free blood tests would be available for children affected by the polluting factories, but residents of Wugang say the authorities have yet to deliver on their promises.

Bribery alleged

“There are only three government permission slips for free individual blood tests for the whole village,” a mother surnamed Wang from Wugang said.

“Some parents are willing to pay the cost themselves in order to have their children checked. However, local hospitals have been bribed by someone, so the parents never see the correct results,” she said.

Another Wugang villager surnamed Zhang said she had been turned down for lead tests at several hospitals in the area.

“Some said there was no electricity, some said the machines weren’t working, and some said the maintenance staff hadn’t shown up for work at the right time, and so on,” Zhang said.

Some villagers even went as far as Hengyang city, taking their children to at least five hospitals, she said.

“But none of the children has actually been tested,” she said……. (more from The Radio fee Asia)

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