BEIJING, June 16 A Chinese official has
suggested the biting of pencils as a possible explanation for
excessive levels of lead found in children in a town in the
south of the country located next to a chemical plant, state
media reported on Monday.
The plant, in Dapu in the southern province of Hunan, has
been shut down after tests found that more than 300 children had
excessive levels of lead in their blood, the Global Times,
published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's
Su Genlin, head of the Dapu government, said the children
could have been made sick by "biting pencils", the newspaper
reported, despite the fact that the "lead" in pencils is
The government has now announced a probe into both the owner
of the chemical plant and local environmental protection agency,
the report added.
Chinese media frequently report on similar cases in a
country where breakneck economic growth has come at a terrible
price for the natural environment in many places.
In 2009, a smelter was closed after it was blamed for the
lead poisoning of almost 1,000 children in the northern province
Despite repeated pledges to get tough, the government faces
an uphill struggle in poorer parts of the country where local
authorities often rely on tax receipts from heavily polluting
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)