BEIJING // Two hundred children are suffering from lead poisoning in south-west China, the country's third such case of mass illness in the past month, an official newspaper said today. Parents in Tongdu, a township in Yunnan province's capital of Kunming, blamed the poisoning on a nearby industrial park while local environmental officials attributed it to vehicle exhaust, the China Daily reported. The Yunnan official overseeing the province's lead prevention office said that up to 60 per cent 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. The Child Lead Prevention and Cure Office in Yunnan conducted the survey of random children last year, director Liu Dakun said. He declined to take further questions or say how excessive the levels were. He did not comment on this case.
An official with the Yunnan provincial environmental agency, however, said he was unclear of the situation, while calls to the Kunming environmental bureau today went unanswered. Earlier this month, more than 1,300 children in central Hunan province and at least 615 children in northern Shaanxi province tested positive for lead poisoning, which can damage the nervous and reproductive systems and cause high blood pressure and memory loss. Those cases have been linked to metal processing plants near their homes and schools. Both plants have been shut down.