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Children sickened by lead from Wugang Manganese Smelting Plant, Hunan, China

More than 1,300 children who lived near a manganese processing plant in Wenping township in Hunan province were found to have excessive lead in their blood, which triggered protests by parents.


Hengjiang Village is nestled in the lush mountains of China's Hunan province, just a few kilometers from the bustling city of Wugang. It is a simple place, where mopeds carrying families of four zoom up and down dirt roads, and villagers drink water from local wells. Their simple, unassuming way of life was shattered when children started getting sick. A few cases turned into hundreds and parents started to worry. [1]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Children sickened by lead from Wugang Manganese Smelting Plant, Hunan, China
State or province:Hunan
Location of conflict:Hengjiang (and Shuangjiang, Hongshun, Shijing) Village, Wenping Town, Wugang City
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Metal refineries
Specific commodities:Lead
Recycled Metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Wugang Manganese Smelting Plant was completed and put into operation in May 2008. No environmental assessment procedures were carried out. What is puzzling is that this polluting factory, which has no signboards, was able to start production normally. Within a few hundred meters of this factory, there are Wenping Town Middle School, Central Primary School and a kindergarten. [13]

Level of Investment for the conflictive projectunknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2000-3000
Start of the conflict:06/2009
Company names or state enterprises:Wugang Manganese Smelting Plant from China - polluter
Relevant government actors:-Wugang Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau
-Wugang city government
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Other Health impactsexcessive blood lead
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Other socio-economic impacts, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Other socio-economic impactsaffects the recruitment of teachers and students in the nearby schools and kindergartens.
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:No more information has been released after the closure of the plant, it's hard to know how the children and their families are.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[6]武政通字〔2009〕10号 (archived version accessed on 2019-02-18)
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Yang, Dongping, ed. The China Environment Yearbook, Volume 5: State of Change: Environmental Governance and Citizens' Rights. Brill, 2011. p.144
[click to view]

[1] Plants shut for lead poisoning in south China; thousands sickened (accessed on 2018-10-18)
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[2]Chinese parents outraged at lead poisoning of their children (accessed on 2018-10-18)
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[3] 'Hundreds ill' near China smelter (accessed on 2018-10-18)
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[4] 湖南武冈:1958名儿童近7成血铅疑似超标Li Jiapeng and Ding Wenjie, “Wugang, Hunan Province: 70% of 1958 Children with a Suspected Overly High Level of Blood Lead,” Economic Information Daily, August 20, 2009. (accessed on 2019-02-18)
[click to view]

[5] Lead Poisoning in Children in Hunan Triggers Protests by Parents and Raises Questions About Governmental Accountability (accessed on 2018-10-18)
[click to view]

[7]湖南武冈1354名儿童疑似血铅超标 (accessed on 2018-10-18)
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[8]1,300 Chinese children near smelter suffer lead poisoning(accessed on 2018-10-18)
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[9]湖南武冈:工厂污染致1354名儿童血铅疑似超标 (accessed on 2018-10-18)
[click to view]

[10] 15 released after lead poisoning unrest (accessed on 2019-02-18)
[click to view]

[11] Radio Free Asia (2009-09-02) 湖南儿童铅中毒事件后 部分家长堵路抗议. (accessed on 25.02.2019)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Parents of sickened children demand government action(accessed on 2019-02-19)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EnvJustice, ICTA-UAB/2018 interns
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3875
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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