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Lead poisoning in China is hitting epidemic levels. And according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, local authorities covering up the problem in affected areas.
Across China millions of children are suffering from lead poisoning and authorities are often denying them the right to be tested or receive treatment, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch.
Researchers from the New York-based organization conducted interviews in contaminated villages in Hunan, Henan, Yunnan and Shaanxi provinces. They say local authorities are seeking to silence those who speak out or seek help.
[Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch]:
"In the instances we documented, families were either being denied the opportunity to have their children tested at all, they were having children tested and either the results were being withheld or they were being falsified, which parents knew as a result of taking their children to a different area and getting them tested again and getting results that were significantly higher. And across the board one of the most difficult problems we documented was the difficulty parents face in getting adequate medical treatment for their children."
Chinese authorities have launched a campaign to crack down on lead pollution and some over polluting factories have had to close. Yet Human Rights Watch says local officials face conflict of priorities when they are required by central authorities to safeguard people's health and at the same time ensure economic progress.
[Joe Amon, Human Rights Watch]:
"The problem is, local government officials, they are not given an incentive to respect these laws, what they are prioritizing is economic growth and when there are problems with the environment or with health, they cover it up, they don't want to address it and what happens is people suffer."