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Kangqiao lead poisoning incident, Shanghai, China


Kangqiao forms part of suburban Shanghai and is a sub-district of Pudong. It is mostly a residential and commercial district, though it is also home to some of the main factories and production facilities in Shanghai.

Since September 2 in 2011, dozens of children in the Kangqiao area of Shanghai’s Pudong district have tested positive for excessive levels of lead in their blood. A statement from the Pudong Health Bureau said: “As of 3pm on September 20, healthcare authorities have confirmed lead poisoning in 32 children, 15 of whom have or are receiving in-patient treatment.” [1] One of the 32 children has been detected with lead levels approaching those of serious lead poisoning, which could have resulted in damage to the child’s nervous system and affected his intellectual development. [2]

The different results from the blood taken by pricking the children’s fingers, which was tested by Shanghai Adicon Medical Testing Centre and blood from the children’s veins, which was tested in Xinhua Hospital arranged by health authorities, confused the local residents and also fuelled the panic. “As of September 18, blood from 43 children from Kanghua had been tested at Adicon, with high lead levels detected in 33 of them – up to 897 [micrograms per litre]. Another 53 samples were tested at Xinhua Hospital, 29 of which were found to have high lead levels, the highest 535 [micrograms per litre].” The children’s families themselves gathered these figures but could not understand how figures for both the lead levels detected and the number of children affected were lower at Xinhua Hospital than at Adicon. [3]

Yan Chonghuai, head of the paediatric department at Xinhua Hospital, responded to concerns over the discrepancy in the figures: “It’s common medical knowledge that there will be a drop in levels between peripheral blood and venous blood. Peripheral blood tests are a first filter for blood-lead levels, but final diagnosis relies on venous blood. The skin absorbs lead, so peripheral blood often gives a false positive.” [1]

An investigation team was set up by the Pudong New Area Government to detect the pollution sources and address the issue with proper treatment. According to an official report released in February 2012, 49 children in Kangqiao area had unsafe levels of lead in their blood and most were aged just 1 to 3 years over the 1,306 children with blood tests. The investigation also found that the children were exposed to high levels of airborne lead in their living environments, Shanghai Johnson Controls International Battery Co. Ltd. was identified as the major source of lead contamination in Kangqiao. The company expanded its production scale without approval and discharged excess airborne lead.[4] While two other companies – Shanghai Xinmingyuan Automobile Parts Co. Ltd., a small firm illegally assembling a tiny number of lead-acid batteries and Shanghai Kangshuo Waste Recycling Co. Ltd. – were also found to be polluting the environment with lead. [5] On September 13, the environmental protection bureau ordered Johnson to halt production while it investigates the Kangqiao lead pollution incident and confirms the source of the poisoning. Including the other two companies, all of them were ordered to halt lead-related operations and to clean the contaminated soil. [6][7]

In mid-September, the Environmental Protection Bureau of Shanghai ordered checks on all firms working with lead as part of “high-pressure monitoring” of lead-acid battery and lead recycling firms. After the Kangqiao blood lead incident, Shanghai began a comprehensive inspection of lead battery companies. Until September 18th, 6 of the 17 lead battery companies in Shanghai had been ordered to cease production because of excessive lead discharges. Johnson Controls also said it will not resume production until the results of the survey come out. [8] The affected children’s parents, continued the protest online, demanding the government shut down the plant and relocate it away from the Kangqiao area. [2]

In early October 2011, the Lead-acid battery branch of China Electrical Equipment Industry Association set up an expert group to go to Shanghai Pudong New Area to conduct an investigation, and formed a “Report on the Traceability of Blood Lead Event in Kanghua New Village” and submitted it to relevant departments. The independent panel was led by Mr. Xia Qing, an environmental scientist and former deputy chairman and chief engineer of China Research Academy of Environmental Science, and included several experts in environmental protection, health, soil remediation, and the lead-acid battery industry. After the investigation of the panel on potential sites that could have contributed to the elevated blood-lead incidents in the Kangqiao area and their analysis about various lead sources and the potential pathways from these sites to the environment in the nearby community, however, it indicated that Johnson Controls could not be the cause of the blood-lead incidents in Kangqiao [9], it did identify an abnormally high zone of lead content from a waste recycling facility near the residential area where 80 percent of the affected children live. [10] In this contaminated area, lead content was found to be over three times the present Chinese national standard and 10 times the forthcoming Chinese national standard. It is also found that the zinc content of this area was over 15 times the present Chinese national standards. [11]

Separately, Johnson Controls also announced that the company will resume production at its Shanghai facility in January 2012 after lead-related operations were temporarily suspended due to reaching its annual lead quota in September 2011. In late December of the same year, Alex Molinaroli, the president of Johnson Controls's battery division, said local authorities indicated new production quotas might not be granted. And in January 2012, the company trimmed its global 2012 earnings forecasts in part to reflect the chance the plant wouldn't reopen in 2012. Although Shanghai authorities have indicated they won't permit processing lead there, but may allow the company to perform late stage activity, such as charging batteries for the first time, Johnson Controls declared that there was no scientific basis for the decisions in Shanghai.

The Pudong New Area Government promised to undertake comprehensive assessments of the environmental conditions in the Kangqiao area and to implement industrial restructuring for related enterprises in the lead-related industries. The government will focus on the restoration of lead-contaminated soil to ensure the safety of residents and strengthening the lead pollutant monitoring system to avoid similar incidents. [12]

According to the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, Shanghai officially implemented the “Emission Standard for Air Pollutants in Lead Battery Industry” since August 1, 2012 and only one of the 19 lead battery companies in the city has met the new standards and is in normal production. Johnson Controls has suspended lead related production since September 2011 and they would no longer resume any lead-related production activities at their Shanghai plant. In September 2012, public relations personnel of Johnson Controls also said that they had communicated with relevant departments and tried to restore factory production to by raising environmental emission standards, but it has not been approved. Therefore, the company decided not to resume any production activities involving lead treatment in Shanghai, while the related equipment will also be transferred. [13]

Basic Data

NameKangqiao lead poisoning incident, Shanghai, China
SiteKanghua New Village, Kangqiao area of the city's Pudong district
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Manufacturing activities
Specific CommoditiesBatteries

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsJohnson Controls is the world’s largest manufacturer of lead-acid batteries. In 2005, it purchased Shanghai Deke International Lead-Acid Batteries and formed Shanghai Johnson--its first step into the Chinese market. The company is located in Pudong New District’ s Kangqiao Industrial Park, where the former districts of Pudong and Nanhui used to meet before the boundaries were redrawn. Kanghua village, where the poisoning occurred, lies among the factories here. [14]

The company is importing batteries from its plants elsewhere to satisfy its customers in China, a strategy that executives said is break-even at best. The Shanghai plant's annual capacity is 2.6 million batteries, less than a Jiangsu Province plant that can produce 8 million units and a plant being built in Chongqing with a capacity for 6 million batteries annually. [15] The level of investment of Johnson Controls in China is 262,666,197 US dollars.[16]
Level of Investment (in USD)262,666,197
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Populationapprox. 2,000
Start Date02/09/2011
End Date2012
Company Names or State EnterprisesJohnson Controls from United States of America
Johnson Controls in China
Johnson Controls Asia Pacific Headquarters
Shanghai Xinming Auto Accessories Co., Ltd. /Shanghai Xinmingyuan Automobile parts Co. from China - Suspected polluter
Shanghai Kangshuo Waste Recycling Co Ltd from China - Suspected polluter
Relevant government actors-Pudong Environmental Protection Bureau

-The Government of Pudong New Area

-Pudong Health Bureau
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters1.Friends of Nature

2.Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal government/political parties
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Soil contamination
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
OtherPotential illnesses resulting from increased lead levels
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Polluting companies were halt; comprehensive assessments of the environmental conditions in the area was implemented by the government; it was also promised by the government to restore the lead-contaminated soil to ensure the safety of residents; lead pollutant monitoring system would be strengthened to avoid similar incidents.

Sources and Materials


[8]上海康桥血铅事件:企业污染 百姓为其埋单



[1][14]A lead poisoning too far?

[10] Johnson Controls says did not cause lead poisoning in Shanghai

[7][15]Shanghai Halts Johnson Controls Lead Processing

[16]Learn about Johnson Controls

[2]32 children suffer lead poisoning


[4]District in Shanghai identifies three companies in lead poisoning incident

[5]China accuses US firm over child lead poisoning

[6]When dirt is dangerously dirty

[11]Independent Expert Study Confirms Johnson Controls Battery Plant is Not the Cause of Elevated Blood-Lead Incidents in Kangqiao Area in Shanghai




Other Documents

Discharged sewage[12]

The meeting about lead-acid batteries[9]

Children of excessive lead[4]

Meta Information

ContributorEnvJustice, ICTA-UAB/NWAFU 2018 Interns
Last update07/11/2018



Discharged sewage[12]


The meeting about lead-acid batteries[9]


Children of excessive lead[4]