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China shuts battery factories due to lead poisoning

Picture of a Chinese child wearing a hat
Image caption A Chinese child waits to be tested for lead poisoning in January

Battery factories across China have been closed amid fears about poisoning from metals used by the industry.

About 74 people have been detained this year after reports that more than 100 people were affected by lead and cadmium poisoning.

Reports from China suggests hundreds of factories have been closed as a result of efforts to tackle poisoning.

The rechargeable lead batteries are used in scooters, cars and some mobile phones.

The detentions and closures are part of moves by regional governments in China to decrease environmental damage and improve working conditions.

Increased demand for electric scooters alongside higher car production has driven up the demand for lead batteries.

In Zhejiang's Deqing county 53 people were hospitalised following tests earlier in the year which found high levels of lead in the blood of 332 residents.

Several major battery manufacturers with shares traded in China have issued notices saying production is suspended.

"We are already seeing an economic process where the Chinese are moving up the value chain and away from low cost production which has quite serious environmental impact," said Roderic Wye, an associate fellow at Chatham House.

But environmental concerns were not the only factor driving China to moderate its policies. "It is because wages are going up and the costs of inputs are going up," he added.

A statement on the website of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection warned that companies must meet environmental standards.

"These situations are completely avoidable," it added.

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