China has detained scores of people and temporarily shut down hundreds of factories in a massive crackdown on industrial activities causing widespread lead poisoning, Channelnewsasia reported on Tuesday.

The Zhejiang provincial government said it has detained 74 people and disconnected power supplies to 652 factories after conducting two-month investigation into battery, metal coating, smelting and dismantling operations in Taizhou city.

Lead poisoning has been a chronic concern in China, as unprecedented economic boom brought in its wake heightened industrial activity.

The stringent crackdown was set in motion after more than 170 people, several children among them, were taken ill by suspected lead poisoning.
The investigation revealed 148 cases of environmental violations mainly stemming from lead acid battery and metal coating factories, the report said. Besides numerous battery factories, the authorities have closed or suspended operations at many metal coating and electroplating factories.

Exposure to lead causes a variety of health effects, and affects children in particular, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the organization, even a blood level of 10 micrograms per decilitre can have harmful effects on children's learning and behavior.

In January this year, an incident of heavy metal pollution had made more than 200 children sick, Reuters had reported. A massive industrial poisoning scandal had hit China in 2008 when at least six children had died and as many as 300,000 had become ill. It was found later that the children were taken ill after consuming milk powder contaminated by melamine.

In October 2009, nearly 1,000 children tested positive for lead poisoning in the central province of Henan, according to Channelnewsasia.