The blood tests of more than 300 children in Dapu town, Hunan province, have revealed excessive levels of lead, indicating heavy metal poisoning. By saying that “it could be a result of students’ habit of biting pencils”, local officials have revealed their indifference and attempt to shirk responsibility, says an article on gmw.cn. Excerpts:Dapu and its chemical plant are well known thanks to the poisonous rice scandal a couple of years ago. Although local officials have denied that there is any connection between the serious pollution in the town and the high level of lead in the children’s blood – and there is no study to prove that there indeed is a connection – judging by past incidents, environmental pollution could still be the cause.The fact that so many children are suffering from heavy metal poisoning should have spurred the local environmental department to conduct a thorough investigation into the medical findings even if no chemical plant in the area had been discharging toxic wastes. The action (or inaction) of the local government is worse than chemical plants spewing poisonous gas and discharging toxic effluents.Perhaps the local officials are not accepting that chemical plants are discharging toxic effluents because they don’t want to compromise the performance of the local economy for environmental causes. If that is so, then it raises a big question on maintaining a balance between environmental protection and economic development.By announcing that they would be forced to shift home from Dapu, the parents of the children have not only expressed their helplessness, but also highlighted the fact that they don’t trust the local government. Now it’s time for the local officials to take steps to win back public trust.