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Hundreds of Chinese villagers protest lead poisoning

BEIJING, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of residents in eastern China's Fujian Province blocked a major road for several hours on Thursday to protest against excessive levels of lead found in their children's blood, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Villagers believed their children were poisoned by pollution from the local Huaqiang Battery Factory, the agency said.

The report said officials from two local governments were dispatched to the township to talk with the villagers, but no conclusions were reached after the meeting.

County authorities ordered China's environmental protection bureau to step up supervision of the plant.

Spooked by fears of lead poisoning, 136 primary school pupils were kept out of classes in one township along with 140 children attending a kindergarten, Xinhua said.

Parents have been demanding action after incidents of lead poisoning were recorded at heavy metal bases in at least four provinces. A series of food health scares, including contaminated milk and and water and air pollution, have also sparked protests.

President Hu Jintao has vowed to make China a "harmonious society", but his promise is being tested by rising tension over shrinking jobs, as well as long-standing anger over corruption, land seizures and pollution. For a factbox on lead poisoning worries in China click on [nnLEAD]. ($=6.83 yuan) (Reporting by Kirby Chien, Editing by Ron Popeski)

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