Beijing: Hundreds of villagers broke into a smelting plant in north China blamed for the lead poisoning of more than 600 children, smashing trucks in protest, state media reported on Monday.
Around 100 policemen were deployed after the villagers in Shaanxi province`s Changqing township destroyed fencing around a special plant railway to gain access to the facility, the official Xinhua news agency said.
At least 10 trucks were damaged, the report said.
A policeman in Changqing township, who refused to be named, said that the villagers had dispersed.
"Police are maintaining order at the scene," he said, refusing to provide further details. The local government refused to comment.
Tests have shown that at least 615 children out of 731 living in two villages near the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Co plant have excessive lead levels in their blood.
A total of 166 were hospitalised while the rest are to be treated at home.
On Sunday, Xinhua quoted Han Qinyou, head of an environmental protection monitoring station where the smelting plant is located, as saying the air near the plant was found to contain high lead levels.
"Lead content in the air along the main roads near the company is 6.3 times that of the monitoring sites 350 metres away from the roads," Han was quoted as saying.
The lead levels in the blood of the children tested ranged from 100 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams per litre, compared with normal levels of between zero and 100 milligrams.
A reading of more than 200 milligrams is considered hazardous, with children more vulnerable to lead poisoning which can harm the nervous system.