China blames ‘pencil-chewing’ on lead-poisoning in children
By Karen Graham, http://www.digitaljournal.com
State media is reporting that tests done on children in Dapu, Hunan province showed excessive lead levels in over 300 children, many of them too young to go to school. The head of Dapu’s governing body, Su Genlin, told reporters, “When kids are studying, they gnaw on their pencils — that also can cause lead poisoning.”
The official was dismissive of the chemical plant located in the township, as well as the lab reports of airborne dust in the village containing 22 times the legal limit of lead. He also failed to mention the levels of lead, zinc, cadmium and arsenic in the factory’s drainage ditch that runs into the village’s river. Those levels are three times the acceptable level considered safe.
According to the official news agency, Xinhua, township chief Su Genlin was dressed down and ridiculed online for his remarks. It seems the Chinese character for the heavy metal is also used for pencil, in much the same way that “lead” has a double-meaning in the English language. Lead hasn’t been used in pencils since the 1500s.
The People’s Daily, the official online mouthpiece of China’s ruling communist party, posted an op-ed on Monday, ridiculing the township leader. Commentator Zhang Yusheng wrote, “It is scientific knowledge that pencils are made from graphite. Does this official’s statement show ignorance, or just disregard for the people’s welfare?”
While people in Dapu are outraged that their children have been subjected to substances that can cause liver, kidney, brain and nervous system damage, they are not alone in their anger. China has been plagued with literally thousands of cases of children being poisoned by lead linked to industrial pollution. It is well known that lead poisoning is the most common pediatric health problem in China today. Read more