Chinese battery plant poisons villagers

A battery plant in China has poisoned more than 100 villagers in a eastern province of the populous republic, local media report.

Some 168 villagers, including 53 children are said to have developed symptoms of heavy-metal poisoning, possibly after eating food grown in contaminated ground around the afflicted village of Shangta.

Reuters says the general manager the factory plant in Zhejiang province was was arrested on Friday, while Chinese state news service Xinhua reports that three government officials have been suspended from their posts for not keeping a beady enough eye on the factory's activities

"An inspection of the battery plant showed that lead readings in gas and water discharged from the plant exceeded the legal limit, which also resulted in excessive lead in the earth nearby," a local environment official named Jiang Xincai told Xinhua .

The factory began making batteries in 2005 and may have been leaching heavy metals into the ground ever since. "The pollution could have been around years as lead accumulates in the body over time," Zhu Zhiwei, a doctor treating the poisoned children said.

Villagers have been advised to avoid eating food grown in the area and the facility has been shut down as investigations kick off.

In January this year, more than 200 Chinese children were poisoned by lead from battery factories built near homes in eastern Anhui Province. Most battery plants in China make batteries to power the gadgets lurking in the pockets of Western consumers.