A report produced by the organisation looks at research in heavily lead-contaminated villages in Henan, Yunnan, Shaanxi and Hunan provinces.

It claims that local authorities are withholding and falsifying test results and ignoring the long-term health consequences of lead pollution.

It says that people in contaminated villages who are exposed to lead poisoning are being denied health care.

The report claims that local authorities in contaminated areas have imposed arbitrary limits on access to blood lead testing, for example by permitting only people living within a small radius of a factory to be tested.

When tests are conducted, results have often been contradictory or have been withheld from victims and their families.

Children with elevated blood lead levels who require treatment according to national guidelines have been denied care or told simply to eat certain foods, including apples, garlic, milk, and eggs.

The report says that while the Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry has attempted to enforce existing environmental regulations, local officials continue to violate them.

Human Rights Watch health and human rights director, Joe Amon, said: “It’s not enough to penalise 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 organisation is calling on the Chinese authorities to ensure that people in affected areas are given immediate and long-term health care and that the polluted areas are cleaned up.

Alison Brown

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