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Lead poisoning in multi-sites of Chenzhou, Hunan, China


Chenzhou is a prefecture-level city located in the south of Hunan province, at the juncture of Hunan and Guangdong provinces. Both Jiahe County (嘉禾县) and Guiyang County (桂阳县) are under the administration of Chenzhou. Jiahe County is also famous for its slogans in the early 2000s on development, including "One who affects Jiahe's development for a while, he/she will be affected for a lifetime. " [1]

The location of Jinjiling village (a natural village of Baijue Village, Guangfa Town, Jiahe County) is exactly at the junction of Jiahe County, Ningyuan County and Xintian County, which was somehow the vague area of the administrative jurisdiction of the three counties. “This is the reason why they all want to build a plant here.” (villager, cited in [2]) According to the villagers, the local mineral deposits are not as rich as other parts of Chenzhou, but investors are interested in the inconvenience and loopholes of the government supervision. With Jinjiling village as the center, there are no less than 10 factories or plants within one square kilometer, including the brickfields, an iron processing plant, a coal mine, a manganese smelter and a plastic factory, etc. Various small plants were settled farther in the mountainous area. [2]

In July 2009, a 63-year-old villager of Jinjiling found that the rice shoots which were green on the previous day turned to be yellow over night, trees in the mountainous area were found the same. Village cadres claimed that it was because the villagers didn’t manage the paddy fields well, which resulted in diseases and crop failure. In August, villagers reported the issue to the township government as well as the agricultural and forestry administrative bureaus in Jiahe County. Later in the same month, both bureaus confirmed that the failure of crops and the death of trees was due to the pollution by the sulfur dioxide emitted from the nearby smelters. Tengda Nonferrous Metal Recycling Company was the most suspected enterprise nearby. On August 13, 2009, the data detected by the Environmental Protection Bureau of Jiahe County showed that the lead content in the soil near the company exceeded the national standard by 5.52 times, the arsenic exceeded the standard by 2.1 times, and the cadmium exceeded the standard by 0.6 times. [3] The Company compensated the villagers CNY 80,000 for the crops and trees. [2]

When crops and trees were affected by pollution, villagers also complained about the health problems and the unusually belligerent behavior and poor school grades of their children that would be linked with lead poisoning, but their petitions to the authorities were ignored for more than three years. [4] Shocked by the lead poisoning case in Fengxiang County of Shaanxi Province [5], the villagers in Jinjiling Village no longer hesitated to take actions. On August 24, 2009, 30 villagers in Jinjiling Village did medical examination spontaneously at the No.1 People’s Hospital and the Center for Disease Prevention and Control in Chenzhou. The result of the examination was that 12 adults were at the normal level, while 18 children had excessive blood lead, and two of the children were poisoned by lead. At the end of August 2009, villagers from Jinjiling Village rushed into Tengda Nonferrous Metal Recycling Company to request the part of the lead products produced by the company as evidence, and weighed as of 3.56 tons together with the tractor loaded with lead. Later, this was also accused as “robbing materials from the enterprise” when the police was trying to detain some of the villagers. [3]

The news of children’s excessive blood lead in Jinjiling quickly spread in several nearby villages. In the following days, more people from Jinjiling and other villages went to the hospital for medical examination and blood test; some villagers also doubted the blood lead test result for the adults from the local hospitals. On September 17, 2009, a bus carrying 53 villagers were blocked by officials when they attempted to leave for Guangzhou to have blood lead test on September 18. Mistakenly believing the villagers were planning to protest, officials blocked the trip and the police also detained two of them on the charge of "disrupting traffic" as a 200-vehicle traffic jam ensued on Guijia Highway. [6] Though later it was proved that the villagers and their children were contaminated by illegal emissions of heavy metals, the local government was unapologetic. "We may have blocked the wrong visit, but they should not have been on that road," Li Ying, deputy secretary of Jiahe county political and legislative committee told the Beijing News. [3] Ou Shudong, the chairman of the local People's Congress, told the newspaper the roadblock and detentions were justified. "The villagers' intentions were unclear. Even if they were going for a medical examination, they should have informed the government." [4]

On February 24, 2010, medical tests done in September 2010 proved villagers’ claims. It was revealed that 254 of the 397 children from three villages near the factories had excessive levels of lead in their blood. The victims included four of the five children of Liao Mingxiu, one of those who were in police detention. [2] Some villagers received several boxes of milk from the government. Parents were often told that drinking milk or eating garlic and eggs was adequate treatment for lead poisoning. [3] In a review test done in January 2010, 83 children were still with excessive blood lead. [7] Some people were skeptical about the consistency of the handwritten results from the review test as the blood lead levels (BLLs) might be written lower than the actual ones.[8]

Although villagers were supported with the test results, it was still quite difficult for them to seek for justice and to protect their children. In November 2009, six villagers including Liao Minghong spent more than CNY 10,000 to petition in Beijing but only got pacifications. Liao Minghong knew that someone would be waiting for him at the station when returning home, so that he got off early in Hubei and made a detour to Hunan, making copies for materials on the way since it was inconvenient to copy stuff at home. However, he still could not escape the detention by the police. [2] The three detained villagers were all released when more excessive blood lead cases were reported in their neighbor county, Guiyang.[9]

According to statistics from Chenzhou Municipal Health Bureau, from March 17 to 22, among the 285 people who did blood lead test in two main hospitals in Chenzhou City - the Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the Children's Hospital, 152 were detected as with excessive blood lead, while 45 with poisoning level of blood lead. The poisoned cases were all children under the age of 14 and the majority came from Haotang Township of Guiyang County.[10]

Three companies, Tengda Nonferrous Metals Recycling Company and Jinzhu Metal Co. Ltd. in Jiahe County, and Yuanshan Scrap Lead Recycle Plant in Guiyang County were considered to be the cause of excessive blood lead in the two counties of Chenzhou. They are all "illegal enterprises" that have not passed the EIA approval procedures and were ordered by the local environmental protection authorities to be closed. [11] At the same time, five persons responsible for the excessive blood lead incident were held accountable and punished with dismissal. [12] According to the deputy director of the Environmental Protection Bureau of Chenzhou City, the small smelting enterprises were thoroughly cleaned up within the city a few days later; enterprises that failed to meet environmental standards were resolutely shut down; core production equipment and power supply facilities of the closed polluting companies were dismantled. In order to prevent secondary pollution, the remaining raw materials, waste residue and waste liquid were also disposed. [13]

This seems to be tough. As a poverty-stricken county, Jiahe was eager to develop its economy and attracted a large number of enterprises that had been evicted from the surrounding areas. By 2009, there were 541 enterprises of various types in Jiahe County, of which more than 300 were illegal enterprises. [2]

In March 2010, the director of the Second Division of Chenzhou CTM Hospital told the media that a survey he participated in 2008 and 2009 had shown that the BLLs of 54% of children among the 23,000 children in Chenzhou had exceeded the national standards. In February 2010, the Health Bureau of Chenzhou City commissioned a number of local hospital experts and Centers for Disease Prevention and Control to study if the current national limit of BLL standard is too low and too easy to be exceeded. [14]

The patients of Guiyang County with excessive blood lead, ranging in age from 11 months to 64 years old, said they had been treated at the Chenzhou CTM Hospital with traditional Chinese medicine, supplemented with vitamins and trace elements to reduce the lead levels. [15] In an interview with the China News Agency on 24 March, family members with patients sickened by excessive blood lead said they were not worried about the cost for the treatment as officials came to the hospital to visit them and repeatedly stressed that "the government will find a solution to the treatment costs, you do not have to worry about that." (cited in [16]). Patients and escorts can also enjoy the free food delivered to the door that was said to be paid by the township government.  Some of them also believe that "Beside the treatment fees, the government might give us some financial compensation." [2]

Although authorities promised to investigate the issue, strengthen environmental protection and rectify various illegal enterprises, some residents were not so confident about the real measures, because companies like Tengda in Jiahe County had never stopped its production while the environmental protection bureaus of Jiahe County and Chenzhou City ordered it to close for many times since its first violation of environmental regulations. [2]

Dai Renhui, a lawyer from the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (Beijing Huanzhu Law Firm) did two field studies separately in Jiahe County in May and Guiyang County in November 2010 to help the families to file the companies. [8][17] In Jiahe County, villagers requested the authorities to disclose all the test results of heavy metals in the soil and water quality affected by the polluting enterprises; clearly tell the villagers whether the soil and water quality of Jinjiling Village are suitable for planting crops and drinking. They also asked the pollution enterprises to compensate for the unpredictable future health damage of children with excessive blood lead, and compensate for the economic losses caused by pollution. Moreover, they requested the government to restore the contaminated land and solve the problem of drinking water pollution. [8] However, the procurator in charge of the case in Guiyang County said that due to insufficient evidence in the case, it is proposed to make a non-prosecution decision. According to this situation, the volunteer lawyer helped the victims to write an application for public examination of the procuratorate's decision to file a public review of non-prosecution application. [17] No further information was disclosed regarding the results.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Lead poisoning in multi-sites of Chenzhou, Hunan, China
State or province:Hunan
Location of conflict:Jingjiling (natural village) in Baijue Village, Guangfa Town, Jiahe County and Yuanshan Village and Hejia village in Haotang Town, Guiyang County, Chenzhou City
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Metal refineries
Specific commodities:Lead
Recycled Metals

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Details of these companies are not available from internet.

Project area:unknown
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:unknown
Start of the conflict:07/2009
Company names or state enterprises:Jiahe County Jinzhu Metal Co., Ltd. from China - polluter
Yuanshan Scrap Lead Recycle Plant in Guiyang County from China - polluter
Tengda Nonferrous Metal Recycling Company from China - polluter
Relevant government actors:-Chenzhou Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau
-Chenzhou Municipal Health Bureau
-Public Security Bureau of Jiahe County
-CPC of Jiahe County
-Guangfa Township Government
-Jiahe county political and legislative committee
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (Beijing Huanzhu Law Firm)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Malnutrition
Other Health impactsexcessive blood lead
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime
Other socio-economic impactscuring fees for the affected households; problems for drinking water access; land became no arable for trees and crops.


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
so far only some damages were compensated, while not all victims were compensated
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Not all the victims were not well treated and compensated, one county made non-prosecution decision and there is no further information disclosed in the other county about the affected populations and the compensations, etc.

Sources & Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1]湖南嘉禾县政府:谁影响发展 我影响他一辈子 (accessed on 2019-03-04)

[3] Beijing News: 嘉禾血铅事件背后元凶 (accessed on 2018-09-26)

[14]郴州医生称万余儿童血铅超标 质疑标准(accessed on 2019-03-04)

[15] More kids with lead poisoning(accessed on 2019-03-04)

[16] Baidu:郴州血铅中毒事件(accessed on 2018-09-27)

[6] Lead Poisoning Cases Stonewalled(accessed on 2018-09-26)

[11] Lead-poisoned children in C China in stable condition(accessed on 2018-09-26)

[13]湖南郴州血铅超标事件3家责任企业均为非法生产(accessed on 2019-03-04)

[4] China defends detention of lead poisoning victims who sought medical help (accessed on 2018-09-26)

[5] 陕西凤翔儿童血铅超标 (accessed on 2019-02-21)

[7]湖南嘉禾县仍有83名儿童血铅超标 (accessed on 2018-09-26)

[9]湖南郴州29名儿童血铅中毒住院 参检者过半超标(accessed on 2018-09-26)

[10]湖南郴州血铅中毒儿童人数上升至45人(accessed on 2018-09-26)

[12]湖南省郴州市大部分血铅中毒患者病情趋于稳定(accessed on 2018-09-26)

[17]中心律师赴湖南桂阳县调查血铅污染案(accessed on 2019-03-04)

[18]XinhuaNet: 湖南郴州“血铅超标”事件调查与反思(图)


[2]湖南郴州儿童血铅中毒事件:“黑色GDP”的最新版本(accessed on 2018-09-26)

[8]中心派律师到湖南嘉禾县调查血铅污染案 (accessed on 2019-03-04)

Meta information

Contributor:EnvJustice, ICTA-UAB/2018 interns
Last update08/03/2019



Lead and zinc plant in Guiyang[19]


Tails of the lead plant[19]


Crop failure in Jiahe County[19]


Lead poisoned Chilren in hospital[18]


Petition of villagers[2]