China halts battery production amid poisoning fears

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A child waits for testing in China | Photo: AFP/Getty images
A child waits for testing in China | Photo: AFP/Getty images

The Chinese government has halted production at several large battery manufacturing plants amid fears of lead poisoning.

Reports from the region claim that 74 people have been arrested, and a further 100 injured in connection with suspected lead poisoning.

The closures and detentions are believed to be part of a strategy by the Chinese government to improve working conditions in the country, and decrease environmental damage caused by battery production.

A massive surge in demand for lead acid batteries for cars, scooters and some mobile phones has lead to a large increase in production in the country.

In Zhejiang’s Deqing county, where much of the country’s battery production takes place, 53 people were hospitalised earlier in the year with suspected lead poisoning. Blood tests have been carried out on some 300 local residents to see if lead levels in their blood pose a significant health risk.

Manufacturers with trading shares and facilities in China have issued statements saying that production has been halted pending an investigation. Meanwhile the Chinese government has issued a statement saying that facilities “must meet environmental standards.”

Steve Sheppard, managing director at Manbat commented: “The situation in Zhejiang  attracted international attention and  lead to the Chinese central government instructing all City and provincial governments and the environmental department to commence an immediate investigation into all battery manufacturers within their regions.

There has been a significant lead pollution problem for some time and although factories have been told to make improvements, most have ignored the instructions, unwilling or unable to make the required investment to bring manufacturing processes up to a safe standard.

The problem has been fueled by western importers who are prepared to source from factories on a price only basis and without considering any ethical responsibility. Many importers have bought from factories without even visiting them.”

Published by Darrenmoss

CAT magazine's in-house reporter and self-confessed petrol head

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