BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Abnormal lead levels have been detected in at least 615 children living near a smelting plant in northwest China, state media reported Thursday.
The toxic element was detected after medical tests were conducted on children under age 14 in two villages in Shaanxi Province, said He Hongnian, a local county official.
Of the children tested, 166 were hospitalized and their medical expenses will be paid by the government, He told the state-run Xinhua news agency.
"The rest should be able to expel the excessive lead from their bodies through nonmedical treatments at home," He said.
County officials had agreed to relocate residents who live within 1,640 feet (500 meters) of the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Co. in three years, but the relocation is behind schedule, Sun Hong, the company's general manager, told Xinhua.
The local government has pledged to speed up the relocation, Xinhua reported.
Local authorities ordered the plant's closure on Aug. 6 after the first case of lead poisoning was discovered. Testing for lead poisoning has been expanding to new areas around the plant -- 300 other children are receiving blood tests.
The company is owned by Dongling Group, one of the biggest private companies in the province, Xinhua said.
Abnormal lead levels have been detected in at least 615 children living near a smelting plant in northwest China, state media reports.