11/17/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Hundreds of children still suffering from kidney stones caused by melamine-tainted milk

Privately paid tests show that, three years after the scandal broke, children still suffer from kidney stones, blood in urine and overall poor health. The government has banned hospitals, doctors and lawyers to help families seek compensation.
Beijing (AsiaNews/RFA) – Three years since the melamine-tainted milk scandal broke, hundreds of children are still affected by kidney diseases. Tests (privately paid because the government has banned hospitals from helping victims’ families) show that children have kidney stones and blood in the urine.

Zhao Lianhai, whose child is one of 300,000 made ill by infant formula milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine, said his advocacy group, Kidney Stone Babies, launched a campaign earlier this year to test hundreds of children.

The scandal broke out in 2008 when reports revealed that many baby milk formulas contained high levels of melamine, added to give the impression that they had a higher protein content.

Seven children died after drinking the tainted formulas, and another 300,000 got sick with kidney diseases.

Zhao Lianhai was sentenced to two and half years in prison for “disturbing the social order”. He was released in November last year on medical parole.

For their part, the authorities have banned hospitals, doctors and lawyers from helping parents file complaints.

The parents’ association, which Zhao heads, has raised donations for 100,000 yuan (about US$ 16,000) to pay for testing of sick children.

The mother of a victim in Lushan (Sichuan) said her child has suddenly started having blood in its urine. A second parent said his child still had kidney stones. A third parent noted that after three years, there has not been much change, a lot of acid in the urine and two kidney stones. "The doctor told us there wasn't any medical treatment they could offer,” he lamented.

Twenty-one people were convicted for their roles in the scandal, and two were executed.

Following the 2008 scandal, the government announced that it had destroyed all tainted milk powder, but reports of melamine-laced products have regularly made the headlines.
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