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Leak at Chinese Chemical Plant Sickens Many

Chinese state media say more than 500 people have been sickened by a leak at a chemical plant in central Hunan province.

The state-run news agency, Xinhua, says health checks on the nearly 3,000 villagers living near the Xianhe Chemical Plant revealed that 509 have excessive levels of the toxic metal, cadmium.

Locals blame the pollution for the deaths of two people more than two months ago, who also were found to have excessive cadmium levels.

Last week, about 1,000 residents of the town of Zhentou demonstrated outside the local government headquarters, seeking compensation for health problems they say were caused by the factory.

Authorities have since suspended two local environmental officials and detained the head of the chemical plant. Xinhua says the Environmental Protection Department had ordered the plant to stop production in March.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP