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China faces 3rd case of kids' mass lead poisoning

BEIJING (AP) --­ Two hundred children are suffering from lead poisoning in southwest China, the country's third such case of mass sickening in the past month, an official newspaper said Monday.

Parents in Tongdu, a township in Yunnan province's capital of Kunming, blamed the poisoning on a nearby industrial park, the China Daily reported.

Earlier this month, more than 1,300 children in central Hunan province and at least 615 children in northern Shaanxi province tested positive for lead poisoning, which can damage the nervous and reproductive systems and cause high blood pressure and memory loss.

Those cases have been linked to metal processing plants near their homes and schools. Both plants have been shut down.

Anger is growing in China over public safety scandals in which children have been the main victims. The ruling Communist party is worried that mass protests will threaten the country's social stability and challenge its grip on power.

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In the latest lead poisoning case, environmental officials in Tongdu said it was not linked to industrial pollution but to vehicle exhaust, the China Daily said. But the newspaper quoted parents as saying only children living near the industrial park were sickened.

An official with the Yunnan provincial environmental agency told The Associated Press he was unclear of the situation, while calls to the Kunming environmental bureau Monday rang unanswered.

China's breakneck economic growth has caused serious environmental problems. For decades, many companies dumped poisons into rivers and the ground, counting on the acquiescence of local governments unwilling to damage their economic lifelines.

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