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Public anger forces China smelter closure

XI'AN, China, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Public anger over lead poisoning is prompting Chinese officials to completely shut down a smelting plant in Shaanxi Province, authorities said.

Environmental officials in the northwestern province said Wednesday that all operations at the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Co. would cease by Saturday, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

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Four of the plant's five lead smelting sectors have already closed, with six of the 11 distillation columns of the remaining section also shut down. Wang Hai'ao, chief of the environmental protection department of Baoji City, told reporters the remaining five columns would also be closed.

"The last five distillation columns will also be pulled out production to fully dispel local villagers' concern about the smelting company's lead pollution," Wang told Xinhua.

Widespread fears of lead poisoning in the area has prompted the Fengxiang county government to offer free blood tests for the villagers of Changqing Township, 851 of whom were found to have excessive lead levels in their blood, the news agency said.

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