The government in eastern
Local authorities are
belatedly moving to curb pollution after
The manager of Taizhou Suqi Storage Battery Co. was arrested in late March and three government officials were suspended for neglecting to properly supervise the factory after tests found many living near the facility had high levels of lead in their blood.
The statement Monday said that investigation resulted in 74 people being detained in 56 cases that were handed to police for possible prosecution.
Lead poisoning can damage the nervous, muscular and reproductive systems. Children are particularly at risk.
The poisonings in Taizhou were among many in
"All remediation will be conducted according to strict discipline. Dismantling of illegal smelters and small, unauthorized electroplating workshops will be conducted strictly according to law," the statement cited Cai Xumin, a local official in charge of the Taizhou cleanup, as saying.
In Zhejiang's Deqing county, where 53 people were hospitalized after tests in late April found high lead levels in the blood of 332 residents near a factory making lead-acid motorcycle batteries, all three local factories were ordered to stop production, said county public outreach official Ji Huibin.
The crackdown is aimed at
preventing and reducing contamination of the environment with toxins such as
lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and other heavy metals that have left much of
Thousands of children were affected by lead poisoning in several provinces in 2009 and 2010 because they lived near metal smelters or battery factories. Combined with scandals over contaminated foods and milk, the issue has taken on urgency for government leaders who have promised to deliver more sustainable, people-oriented economic growth.
Manufacturers of lead-acid batteries are a key target. An explosion in the use of electric scooters and surging auto manufacturing have driven up demand for batteries, but mining, smelting, making and disposal of the lead and the batteries have been poorly regulated.
"It doesn't matter what the reason is, companies and local officials must take responsibility for failing to meet environmental standards," said a statement on the website of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. "These situations are completely avoidable."
Several major battery
manufacturers with shares traded in
Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the number of manufacturers to about 300 from the current 1,700, the financial newspaper China Business News said Monday.
The suspensions have driven up prices for batteries already on the market as scooter makers rush to secure supplies, while reducing demand for lead, it said.
Usually, people working in
the industry greet each other with the question, "How's production these
days?" said Huang He, sales manager for major battery maker
"These days, I'm usually asked instead, 'Is your factory closed?'" Huang said.