Melamine-tainted milk: more deaths and sick than official data show
Nine-month-old Li Xiaokai died of kidney failure in the family farmhouse in Liti village (Henan) just before dawn on 10 September, a day before state media reported that the type of infant formula she drank had been adulterated with a known industrial chemical. An ultrasound examination of Xiaokai's kidneys at the Children's Hospital in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan, found an unusually stone in each kidney which doctors and parents could not explain.
The same is true for four other infants who died from kidney diseases (like one-year-old Tian Jin, a six-month-old in Jiangxi, and another child in Xinjiang). For them according to the government, there is no evidence that melamine-tainted milk is the cause.
Overall the authorities accept that only three deaths can be attributed to the toxic substance, plus another child who died in Xinjiang according to media reports.
Wang Siyu, a girl from Shangqiu, was fed Sanlu products from birth and developed recurring kidney problems in May last year, at the age of three. Sent to hospital on several occasions she died of kidney failure at the Children's Hospital on 2 May.
Doctors in several regions did notice a rise in kidney stones in children over the past two years. Many began pointing the finger at baby formula as the likely cause, before the scandal broke that is.
Melamine is used in the plastics industry but is toxic for human. Its composition is like that of proteins and for this reason, when added to milk, can make it appear richer in nutrition.
At the end of October the official number of sick children stood at 53,000, but hospitals have continued to report more cases since then.
Experts believe the government is trying to play down the human cost to stifle criticism as well as prevent families from bringing lawsuits and demanding compensation from dairy companies.
The authorities did promise free treatment and their own compensation package but have not yet announced any amount or even admitted to the actual number of dead and sick other than what they have officially declared.