It seems the Chinese government officials are abusing human rights, and those of children in particular when it comes to lead poisoning according to a watchdog organization, Human Rights Watch. In a news release published this week, the group claims China is restricting access to lead testing, withholding and falsifying test results and denying children treatment. The full 75 page report focuses on the highly industrialized providences of Henan, Yunnan, Shaanxi and Hunan. (see link below for the full report)
Joe Amon, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch announced:
"Children with dangerously high levels of lead in their blood are being refused treatment and returned home to contaminated houses in polluted villages. Parents, journalists, and community activists who dare to speak out about lead are detained, harassed, and ultimately silenced. It's not enough to penalize factory owners and officials after a village is severely contaminated. The government needs to provide treatment and to make sure that children aren't immediately re-exposed to toxic levels of lead."
The report also documents how local authorities in contaminated areas have imposed arbitrary limits on access to blood lead testing. When tests are in fact conducted, results have often been contradictory or have been withheld from victims and their families.
Over the past decade, numerous mass lead poisoning incidents have been reported across "the sleeping giant." Recently, Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry officials have become more outspoken, stating that it will pursue criminal penalties for businesses and local officials who violate environmental restrictions.
Children are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning, and high levels of lead exposure can cause permanent intellectual and developmental disabilities, including reading and learning disabilities, behavioral problems, hearing loss, attention problems, and disruption in the development of visual and motor functioning.
"The Chinese government has begun to realize that the environmental cost of massive toxic pollution is unacceptable. Unfortunately, it has yet to address the health consequences for the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of children who face the dire consequences of the government's neglect."
The Environmental Protection Ministry claims its mission is to develop and organize the implementation of national policies and plans for environmental protection, draft laws and regulations, and formulate administrative rules and regulations for environmental protection. Cooperate with relevant department to develop the plan for pollution prevention and control in key marine areas and participate in the development of national zoning of main function areas according to national requirement.
Meanwhile The Human Rights Watch organization says about itself:
"Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice. We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable. We challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law. We enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all."
There are two sides to every story, but when children and public health are concerned, it seems there are obvious solutions and ways forward.
For the full "My Children Have Been Poisoned': A Public Health Crisis in Four Chinese Provinces" report, click HERE.
Sources: Human Rights Watch and The Ministry of Environmental Protection of The People's Republic of China
Written by Sy Kraft