130 Smelt Workers Fired After Blood Tests Show High Lead Levels

March 16, 2008 12:00 am Last Updated: March 16, 2008 12:00 am

According to a report by the China Philanthropy Times, over 130 workers from a smelting plant located in Shaanxi Province were fired after blood tests confirmed high levels of lead in their blood.

In the report, one worker in his 40s, Zhang Hansen, blood tests showed a lead level of 1124 µg/L. A normal amount of lead would be less than 400 µg/L (1.9 µmol/L). He has worked in the Shaanxi Metal Mines Company smelting plant for the past nine years, and in a high lead vapor and dust environment. He is now in the hospital and is extremely weak.

Currently, there are more than 130 workers in the company exhibiting varying degrees of high lead levels in their blood. Through blood tests, it was found that the lowest was around 500 µg/L, but 90 percent had blood lead levels that were higher than 600 µg/L.

Zhang Hansen said, “The company made many attempts to create a green environment three years ago. The results were poor and none of the trees that were planted survived.”

According to hospital staff, these workers suffer from chronic lead poisoning. Treatment for lead poisoning includes administering medication to help flush out the lead and supplements to replenish other minerals such as calcium and iron that are flushed out along with the lead.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Most worker's blood test results are normal.” When asked why it had become so serious at this time, he suggested: “It's probably because the out-of-date facilities at the hospital led to inaccurate test results.”

The workers who were fired have applied to the Feng County Labor Dispute Arbitration Committee to have the company pay their pensions, medical insurance, and housing savings funds. They also asked that the company provide expert medical treatment for their occupational disease and to reimburse any related costs and losses.