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China cracks down on lead emissions

Associated Press / May 20, 2011

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SHANGHAI — China is cracking down on emissions of lead and other heavy metals following a spate of poisoning cases and reports that much of the country’s soil is contaminated with toxic materials.

Rules viewed yesterday on the website of the Ministry of Environmental Protection order criminal penalties for businesses and local officials who violate restrictions on use of the toxins. They were announced after dozens of children living near a battery plant in southern China’s Guangdong Province were reportedly sickened by lead poisoning.

In regions already affected by severe lead pollution, authorities were ordered to suspend environmental impact assessments and approvals of any more projects, said the official Xinhua News Agency citing ministry spokesman Tao Detian.

China is belatedly confronting a crisis of heavy metals poisoning after years of allowing manufacturers to disregard safety standards. The country has reported hundreds of pollution emergencies in recent years, many involving lead.

An explosion in the use of electric scooters and the growth of car manufacturing have driven soaring demand for lead acid batteries, but the mining, smelting, making, and disposal of the lead and the batteries has been laxly controlled.

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