More than 300 Chinese children have been diagnosed with lead poisoning after a metal smelting factory was opened near their village, the Telegraph reported on Monday.

Public health officials are now testing another 865 children from the same villages in Shaanxi Province, central China, where the Shaanxi Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Factory is located. The results will be published later this week.

China's latest public health scare dates back to March when a six-year-old girl, Miao Fan, was diagnosed with lead-poisoning gastritis.
Fears among parents became more widespread in July this year when a second villager took two children to the local hospital complaining they were slothful and absent-minded.

The mother, Xue Yani told said the blood tests taken on July 7 revealed levels of lead in her children's blood stream were more than twice the permissible levels of 100mg per liter with 239mg and 242mg per liter respectively.

As panic spread through the village of Maodaokou more than 300 further tests were carried out, almost all showing dangerous levels of lead. A further 865 children from villages surrounding the industrial.

Last week the company was forced to halt manufacturing at the plant after angry villagers gathered outside the gates to the factory demanding compensation.

The local government has promised free treatment to all those affected while health officials announced a full investigation into the claims which have been given prominence in China's state media. Factory managers were unavailable for comment.

Research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) reported in 2008 the direct link between prenatal and early-childhood lead exposure and an increased risk for criminal behavior later in life.

Based on long-term data from a childhood lead study in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kim Dietrich, PhD, and his team have determined that elevated prenatal and postnatal blood-lead concentrations are associated with higher rates of criminal arrest in adulthood.

We have monitored this specific sub-segment of children who were exposed to lead both in the womb and as young children for nearly 30 years, explains Dietrich, principal investigator of the study and professor of environmental health at UC. We have a complete record of the neurological, behavioral and developmental patterns to draw a clear association between early-life exposure to lead and adult criminal activity.