China official blasted for blaming lead poisoning on pencils

A Chinese government official who blamed lead poisoning in more than 300 children on the possible chewing of school pencils was excoriated in state-run media and ridiculed online Monday.

Lead levels as high as three times national standards were found in the blood of children in a village in the central province of Hunan, with the contamination blamed on pollution from a local chemical plant, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

The factory has been closed down for investigation, Xinhua said citing local officials.

But Su Genlin, the chief of Dapu township, told the told state broadcaster CCTV that "Kids use pencils in school, and chewing pencils could also cause the excessive (lead) levels."

In Chinese, the character for the heavy metal is also used in the word for pencil, in the same way that "lead" has a double meaning in English.

The online mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist party, the People's Daily, blasted the official in an op-ed published on Monday.

"It is scientific knowledge that pencils are made from graphite," the article by commentator Zhang Yusheng said. "Does this official's statement show ignorance, or just disregard for the people's welfare?"

Chinese Internet users also mocked the official. "How can such low IQ cadres appear in public?" asked author Cui Chenghao on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

China's rapid industrialisation over the past 30 years has left the country with widespread environmental damage that has taken a heavy toll on public health.

Recent studies have shown that roughly two-thirds of China's soil is estimated to be polluted and that 60 percent of underground water is too contaminated to drink.

In 2011 authorities in the eastern province of Zhejiang detained 74 people and suspended work at hundreds of factories after 172 people—including 53 children—fell ill with lead poisoning.

US battery maker Johnson Controls was in 2012 blamed for pollution in the commercial hub of Shanghai, after 49 were diagnosed with .

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

China accuses US firm over child lead poisoning

Feb 27, 2012

Authorities in Shanghai have accused US Fortune 500 battery maker Johnson Controls and several other companies of emitting excessive amounts of lead blamed for poisoning dozens of children.

China shuts US plant in lead scare: report

Sep 23, 2011

An American-owned battery plant in China will remain shut until the end of the year over fears it has caused lead poisoning in local children, the Shanghai Daily reported on Friday.

Recommended for you

Exploring 3-D printing to make organs for transplants

15 hours ago

Printing whole new organs for transplants sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the real-life budding technology could one day make actual kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs for patients ...

High frequency of potential entrapment gaps in hospital beds

17 hours ago

A survey of beds within a large teaching hospital in Ireland has shown than many of them did not comply with dimensional standards put in place to minimise the risk of entrapment. The report, published online in the journal ...

Key element of CPR missing from guidelines

Jul 29, 2014

Removing the head tilt/chin lift component of rescue breaths from the latest cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) guidelines could be a mistake, according to Queen's University professor Anthony Ho.

Burnout impacts transplant surgeons (w/ Video)

Jul 28, 2014

Despite saving thousands of lives yearly, nearly half of organ transplant surgeons report a low sense of personal accomplishment and 40% feel emotionally exhausted, according to a new national study on transplant surgeon ...

User comments