China chemical plant pollution leaves 500 sick

By Xinhua,

Changsha (China) : More than 500 villagers have been found with very high levels of a toxic metal in their bodies following a series of leaks at a chemical plant in central China, officials said Monday.

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A total of 509 people fell sick after they were exposed to cadmium, a toxic metal pollutant, discharged by the Changsha Xianghe Chemical Plant in China’s central Hunan province, Zhou Mengde, an official investigating the incident, said.

Zhou said the government has offered free health checkups to 2,888 people living within a radius of 1,200 meters from the plant.

Medical tests of the affected people showed they had excessive levels of cadmium in their bodies.

Thirty-three people had to be hospitalized and the government will bear their expenses, he said.

Local residents took to the streets to protest over the incident, and under pressure, the government, meanwhile, suspended two officials of the environment department.

The plant was set up in 2003.

In April, the government ordered to stop production at the plant, which produces zinc sulfate, an ingredient used for making fodder, when two local residents allegedly died after they were exposed to the toxic metal.