|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  (the permissible level of blood lead is below 100 ug/L, according to international standard ). 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. |
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.  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”.  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. 
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.  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.  On October 29, the bureau received the collective complaint about children’s exceeded blood lead from the residents of Guangjin Staff Community.  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.  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”.  The concentration of lead dust in exhaust gas was 9.05 μg/m3 (standard is 7.5 μg/m3).  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 . 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. 
Yinyuan Industrial Estate was developed and managed by Qingyuan Economic Development Zone.  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.  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.  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.  After the exposure of lead poisoning, there was a trend in the area to detect blood lead for children.  Although most adults did not go for the blood lead test, but those who did were also reported as excessive blood lead. 
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.  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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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.  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.