More than 300 children in northern China have been diagnosed with lead poisoning suspected of being linked to a smelting factory near their homes, state press reported on Monday.
The children, all living alongside the Changqing industrial park in Fengxiang county, Shaanxi province, were found to have as much as twice the safe level of lead in their blood, the China Daily said.
They sleep more than before, cannot concentrate and react very slowly, the report said, citing local residents.
Normal lead content in the blood is below 100 milligrams per litre, and above 200 milligrams is considered hazardous, but the lead in some of the youngsters' blood was more than 250 milligrams per litre, it said.
Local residents believe that the Shaanxi Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Factory, only about 500 metres (yards) from their homes, was to blame for the poisoning, the paper said.
The factory had been required to help relocate nearby residents, but so far only 100 out of nearly 600 households had been able to move, as most villagers lacked the money for new homes, the paper said.
Many poverty-stricken regions in China's interior have introduced high-polluting industries without the necessary environmental evaluation, in a desperate bid to boost economic growth, the China Daily said.
The country sees tens of thousands of public protests each year, many tied to outrage over industrial pollution.