TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bill Radke: Authorities in China are investigating another case of child lead poisoning —
this time in the central province of Hunan, near a plant that processes the metal manganese. Thirteen hundred children were found with high levels of lead their blood. There was a similar case earlier this month. People who live near Chinese industrial plants have complained for years that local officials are ignoring dangerous pollution. Marketplace’s Scott Tong joins us from Hunan Province. Good morning.
Scott Tong: Good morning Bill.
Radke: How was this latest poisoning case discovered?
Tong: Well Bill we talked to parents in this village where this plant is, and the hospital where a lot of the children are being treated, and they said had these awful systems. Some of them had fevers of 105. The kids stopped eating. And then when they got them tested at the local hospital, they found lead levels in their blood in some cases that were triple the normal level. And so the parents tell us the doctors’ version of the story is you know these children are going to grow up and have memory loss and learning disabilities, so there’s a sense of hopelessness among the people we talked to.
Radke: How are the local residents there reacting?
Tong: Well, they’re very critical of the boss of this manganese processing facility. What they tell us is he came out without the appropriate environmental permits, and then he set this place up and it started spewing black ash into the sky. And one of them said, you know this is kind of the face of China’s environmental movement. It affects them very, very directly Bill.
Radke: Tell us about this product, this manganese. How does this fit in to the global economy?
Tong: You know, Bill, manganese is a big part of steel. And China is the world’s biggest maker of steel. So Americans interact with that when they get products shipped over from China, in ships made of steel, and the containers are made of steel, and the products obviously have steel in them. So basically what the global economy has done is it’s allowed developed countries like the U.S. to outsource jobs, outsource companies to developing countries like China. And they also outsource the smoke stacks and the environmental pollution. And a lot of people in China want it to end.
Radke: So with this manganese poisoning case, Scott, what’s going to happen next there?
Tong: The government officials tell us that the boss of this plant is still missing and they’re going after him. They’ve shut down this plant, and now they’re trying to get the word out to the villagers and their children that the government is paying for a lot of benefits for the kids to be screened and for the children to be treated.
Radke: Marketplace’s Scott Tong in Hunan province. Thanks.
Tong: OK. Thank you Bill.
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