Lead poisoning by Zeliang Battery Manufacturer in Qingyuan, Guangdong, China

Since 2008, 44 children living near Guangdong Zeliang Battery Manufacturer were detected with excessive blood lead levels. The company was temporarily suspended before reopening under another name.


Description
In 2009, 44 children were reported to have excessive lead levels in their blood in Qingyuan, a prefecture-level city in northern Guangdong province. The children were mostly from 4 months to 3 years old, and the highest blood lead level was up to 550 ug/L [3] (the permissible level of blood lead is below 100 ug/L, according to international standard [9]). Lead poisoning mainly damages the digestive system and blood system, and causes anaemia and dark skin. In severe cases, the nervous system may be damaged. [8]

Parents thought that Guangdong Zeliang Battery Manufacturer (later renamed as Guangdong Aokly Power Co., Ltd.) and Jicheng Aluminum Alloy Factory were responsible for the lead pollution due to their close location to the residential area: less than 100 meters. One resident said that the air condition was bad due to the emission of the exhaust air at night, which stimulated eyes and throat, and was unbearable. Two years before 2009, residents living around the manufacturer had appealed several times to the municipal and environmental protection agency for improving the exhaust gas of the factory, but there was no response. [2] On October 26, all the owners of the community entrusted the real estate developer to send a joint letter to the government of Qingyuan, as well as the medical report of some children and the signatures of 221 household owners. They demanded that “the relevant government departments should rectify factories that pollute the living environment as soon as possible”. [6] They also selected two representatives to be on duty day and night to record the emissions of the two factories in November. However, the environmental protection department did not contact the owners during the period. On November 26, the owners wrote a joint letter again to the Qingyuan Environmental Protection Bureau and the Office of Letters and Calls, and sent the emission record to the relevant departments. [6]

It took some time for the government to identify the responsibility of lead pollution. Zeliang Battery Manufacturer had both licenses for business and sewage permit. From the noise and wastewater test report of September 3 (2009), which was issued by Qingyuan Environmental Monitoring Station, the emission indicators of Zeliang Battery Manufacturer met the national standards. [2] On October 21, the Environmental Protection Bureau of Qingyuan Economic Development Park received complaints from residents and visited Zeliang Battery Manufacturer and Jicheng Aluminum Alloy Factory. Zeliang Battery Manufacturer promised to complete the rectification about the acid mist in November. [2] On October 29, the bureau received the collective complaint about children’s exceeded blood lead from the residents of Guangjin Staff Community. [2] However, in the monitoring report of November 5, both sulphuric acid mist and lead dust were in line with national standards. Journalists found in the report that the content of lead dust, suspended solids, cadmium, and copper in the samples of air and discharged wastewater from Zeliang Battery Manufacturer just reached the critical value. Through more investigations, the Manufacturer was found to pile up large amount of lead and use lots of lead materials in the production process. [2] On December 10, the Environmental Protection Bureau of Qingyuan Economic Development Zone found that only half of the machines in the molten lead workshop were in operation, and the workshop was open which made the air in the workshop naturally circulating with the outside air without any protection.

On December 25, the Qingyuan Municipal Government established a group to investigate the excessive blood lead issue. According to the test results of the Qingyuan Environmental Monitoring Station and the Guangzhou Environmental Monitoring Center, the pH value and lead concentration of the wastewater discharged from Zeliang Battery Manufacturer exceeded the “Water Pollution Emission Limits of Guangdong Province”. [2] The concentration of lead dust in exhaust gas was 9.05 μg/m3 (standard is 7.5 μg/m3). [3] On December 26, the Zeliang Battery Manufacturer was ordered to stop production and sewage. It was determined that the factory was responsible for the lead pollution.

The Qingyuan Economic Development Zone, the Qingyuan Environmental Protection Bureau, the Health Bureau, and other relevant departments held a briefing to address the excessive blood lead issue. In order to get the patients to be treated as soon as possible, the government sent an emergency medical team to the scene to carry out treatment work [4]. The government paid for all medical tests to know the exact number of children with excessive blood lead, as well as the recheck and later treatment. The Qingyuan Environmental Protection Bureau was in charge of monitoring all the factories and companies involving lead in the whole economic development park. [3]

Yinyuan Industrial Estate was developed and managed by Qingyuan Economic Development Zone. [12] Several years before the lead pollution was detected, it had attracted tens of thousands of migrant workers to work and earn a living. Many people have come also with their families and have purchased an apartment there. Guangjin Staff Community is one of the residential communities. [6] Located in the Yinyuan Industrial Estate, the community was put into use since September, 2005, with 380 apartments, 430 households, and almost 1200 residents. Most families have 2 children, some even have 3 or 4. The number of children was roughly estimated over 1,000. Among them, children under 14 years old were 364. [5] The residential area is 150 meters away from the main production workshop of Guangdong Zeliang Battery Factory.

Guangdong Zeliang Battery Manufacturer was located in the Yinyuan Industrial Estate. It was registered in 2004, and expanded the production area from 2 hectares to 3.6 hectares through renting near buildings. The factory had around 500 staff, from which 50 people lived in the Guangjin Staff Community, and 11 of them were the parents of children with excessive lead level of blood. [5] After the exposure of lead poisoning, there was a trend in the area to detect blood lead for children. [3] Although most adults did not go for the blood lead test, but those who did were also reported as excessive blood lead. [4]

Children with excessive blood lead have the symptoms of irritable temperament and declining physical condition, and are prone to colds and fever. There were several gray spots on one of child’s deciduous teeth, which was one of the symptoms of lead poisoning. [6] Parents received medicine to decrease the lead in their children’s blood, while the effect was not significant but with the loss of calcium and zinc at the same time. They know that unless leaving this area, whatever their children took would not help to address their excessive blood lead levels. [4]

Some people chose to move or sent their children to their hometown, while most of children were still breathing the polluted air. The lead poisoning also influenced the real estate industry of the area. No one would like to buy an apartment in the area, and the price decreased into the cheapest one in the whole Guangdong Province. [4]

According to the government of Qingyuan, there were 4 main reasons of the exceeding blood lead of children. Firstly, the discharge of waste water and exhaust gas from Zeliang Battery Manufacturer exceeded the standard. Secondly, the supervision of pollution source was not in place, and the awareness of workers to protect themselves was weak. The shower and locker rooms were rarely used, and many workers went home without changing their clothes, which caused the direct and indirect lead pollution to their children. Thirdly, the residential area was too close to the pollution source. The real estate developers was responsible for the planning of the buildings. Finally, there were many restaurants and groceries near the Guangjin Staff Community, where the food and toys were easily polluted by the lead and touched by children. [5]

Propaganda materials on lead hazards were ready, and the city would effectively carry out publicity and education activities on health care knowledge such as prevention of lead hazards through media and on-site lectures in the Qingyuan Economic Development Zone. [7]

On April 27, 2010, the Qingyuan Municipal Government invited relevant experts and unit representatives to conduct a technical review of the feasibility of the Environmental Impact Assessment report about the technical transformation of the Factory. At the meeting, the head of Guangdong Aokly Power Co., Ltd. (a “new face” of Guangdong Zeliang Battery Manufacturer) said that during the period of production suspension, the company has relocated part of its production to Yingde City of Guangdong Province, and was ready to spend two years for the overall relocation. In this period, the company planned to remove the lead dust pollution part from the original production process, and to outsource plates production for battery assembly. [10] While according to the ‘Comprehensive remediation plan for lead-acid battery industry in Qingyuan City’ (2016-2022), conducted by the Qingyuan Environmental Monitoring Station for all major heavy metal pollution prevention and control enterprises (2013~2015) including Guangdong Zeliang Battery Manufacturer, the heavy metal concentrations (lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and arsenic) of water and soil have not met the standard requirements, which means the pollution to the environment and human health still exists. [11]
Basic Data
NameLead poisoning by Zeliang Battery Manufacturer in Qingyuan, Guangdong, China
CountryChina
ProvinceGuangdong
SiteLongtang Town, Qingcheng District, Qingyuan City
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Manufacturing activities
Other
Specific CommoditiesBatteries
Manufactured Products
Lead
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsGuangdong Aokly Power Co., Ltd. occupies 3.6 ha of land in Longtang Town, Qingcheng District, Qingyuan City and it employs 1,600 people. The initial investment is about CNY 10 million (around USD 1.5 million) with 800,000 kVAh annual production capacity and about CNY 5.85 million of revenue. [11]

The headquarter of Yingde Aokly Power Co., Ltd. is in Yingde city, Guangdong Province, the four existing production base is located in Qingyuan and Yingde, covers an area of 324 ha, a total investment of 2 billion Chinese Yuan (around 30 million USD dollars), and annual production capacity of 13 million kVA, is currently the largest lead-acid battery manufacturing enterprises in Guangdong Province. [13]

There are about 430 households and 1,200 people in the Guangjin Staff Community after the leaving of some families; there were about 600 households living in the community with an estimated population of about 2,000. [5]
Project Area (in hectares)3
Level of Investment (in USD)1,500,000.00
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population1,200-2,000
Start Date2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesYingde Aokly Power Co., Ltd. (AOKLY) from China - polluter
Relevant government actors- Qingyuan Municipal government

- Disease Control Center of Qingyuan

- Qingyuan Environmental Protection Bureau

- the Office of Letters and Calls of Qingyuan

- Environmental Protection Bureau of Qingyuan Economic Development Zone

- Qingyuan Environmental Monitoring Station

- Guangzhou Environmental Monitoring Center

- the Health Bureau of Qingyuan
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Official complaint letters and petitions
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Otherirritable temperament, declining physical condition, prone to colds and fever, low calcium and zinc, and grey spots on children’s deciduous teeth.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherPollution caused low prices of local real estates.
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Migration/displacement
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Zeliang Battery Manufacturer changed its name and relocated its factory in anther city of Guangdong. Although a new environmental impact assessment was made and the factory improved its processing, their products are still related to lead.
Sources and Materials
References

清远市某工业区375名0-12岁儿童血铅调查分析 -access 2019/02/18
[click to view]

He. et al (2009) Blood lead levels of children and its trend in China. Science of The Total Environment, Volume 407, Issue 13, 15 June 2009, Pages 3986-3993.

- accessed on 2019/02/18
[click to view]

Links

[2]再现血铅超标 认定广东奥克莱电源公司为污染源-accessed on 2019/02/12
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[3]粤多名川籍儿童被查出血铅超标 蓄电池厂是祸首 -accessed on 2019/02/12
[click to view]

[4]广东清远一工业区44个孩子血铅超标 或远超此数-accessed on 2019/02/12
[click to view]

[5]广东清远通报儿童血铅超标事件4大主因 -accessed on 2019/02/12
[click to view]

[6]广东清远工业区44个儿童血铅超标 居民纷纷外迁-accessed on 2019/02/13
[click to view]

[7] 清远血铅儿疑云:事发地儿童全部登记检查 -accessed on 2019/02/13
[click to view]

[8] 清远血铅儿童复查:49人铅超标25人中毒 -accessed on 2019/02/13
[click to view]

[9] 血铅-accessed on 2019/02/14
[click to view]

[10] 广东清远致儿童血铅超标企业两年后将整体搬迁 -accessed on 2019/02/14
[click to view]

[12] 广东清远经济开发区 -accessed on 2019/02/18
[click to view]

[13] 奥克莱电源 -accessed on 2019/02/18
[click to view]

[1]广东清远246名儿童复检血铅含量 8名重度铅中毒- accessed on 2019/02/12
[click to view]

[11]清远市人民政府办公室关于印发《清远市铅酸电池行业整治规划(2016-2022年)》的通知 -accessed on 2019/02/18
[click to view]

Other Documents

Qingyuan lead poisoning - children 清远血铅儿童已超44人
[click to view]

Qingyuan-lead poisoning-children are playing Children are playing outside of Guangjin Staff Community
[click to view]

Qingyuan-lead poisoning-medical test The medical test of a child.
[click to view]

Qingyuan-lead poisoning-more tests Medical tests of more children.
[click to view]

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ContributorEnvJustice, ICTA-UAB
Last update19/02/2019
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