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Rise in E-waste Profits Linked to Child Lead Levels

A new study has shown that a shocking 88 per cent of all children in Guiyu in 2010 had lead poisoning. Huo Xia, a cytological analysis professor from the Shantou University medical college, had some fast talking to do to convince parents in Guiyu, a town in the province of Guangdong in China, to let her test the blood lead levels of their children. Some feared she was out to shut down their unlawful electronic waste processing businesses, and others even suspecting she just wanted to steal their blood.

167 children – all of them under the age of six years old – were tested, and the results were shocking, with 88 per cent being shown to have had lead poisoning last year, a massive jump of 16 per cent from the 227 children who were tested the year before, a rise even Xia is having some trouble explaining. However, the researcher suspects that a fall of 16 percent back in 2004 was due to the worldwide recession, lowered copper prices, and the subsequent decrease in the processing of electronic waste, including old cell phones. Huo has been analyzing the blood lead levels of children less than six years of age in Guiyu for the last seven years, with her first tests in 2004 showing blood lead levels of a minimum of 13 micrograms of lead per blood deciliter.

The World Health Organization has called that level “serious cause for concern”, noting also that “There is no safe level”.