Villagers storm Chinese plant to protest poisoning

The villagers became agitated after a teenager in Changqing township in Fengxiang county in Baoji attempted to commit suicide by drinking pesticide Sunday after her request for a blood test was denied by her parents.
At least 615 children, of a total 731 under the age of 14 living in two villages near the plant have shown excessive lead levels in their blood systems.
Of them, 166 serious cases were diagnosed as having lead levels of more than 250 mg per litre of blood compared with the normal zero to 100 mg a liter. Over 150 were hospitalized.
Ma Jiaojiao, 19, Monday said she had asked her mother for money Sunday to get a blood test because she feared that she might be suffering from lead poisoning.
"My mom said it was unnecessary because I am much older than 14," Ma said from her ward at the People's Hospital in Baoji. "We had a bad quarrel."
She then bought pesticide and swallowed it at around 6 p.m. Her mother found her shortly afterward and she was taken to Baoji for treatment.
The news of her attempted suicide spread among the villagers Monday morning.
Several hundred people swarmed the factory area of Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Co., dismantled 300 metres of fencing around a railway yard reserved for the company, and smashed trucks and other vehicles.
At least 10 trucks that had carried coal to the plant were damaged. Some of them were from Henan Province and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Baoji Mayor Dai Zhengshe has been appointed as head of a newly-established pollution control team. He said he was willing to settle the villagers' relocations and medical issues through dialogue.
More than 200 officials have begun hearing the villagers' woes since Monday morning.
Residents living within a radius of 500 metres from the plant were supposed to have been relocated by this year according to a deal reached between the plant and Fengxiang county government before the plant opened in 2006.
Relocation, however, is running far behind the government's schedule and only 156 of the 581 families have moved to new homes.
The government of Fengxiang county began building new homes last Thursday for the remaining 425 families.
The local environment watchdog has blamed the smelter for the lead poisoning.
"Lead content in the air along the main routes near the plant is 6.3 times that of monitoring sites 350 metres from the roads," said Han Qinyou, head of the Baoji Municipal Environmental Protection Monitoring Station.
But the official said laboratory tests on samples also showed "ground and surface water, soil and the smelter's waste discharge had all met national standards".

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