A researcher in China says that 88 percent of the blood samples taken from children in Guiyu, China clearly show lead poisoning. The findings are made more significant by their publication in the government-owned China Daily. China has, until recently, downplayed reports of Guiyu’s e-waste hazards.

Huo Xia, a Shantou University medical college cytologicial analysis professor, visited the town in southern China and convinced parents to let her test the blood of their children for lead, according to China Daily. The results showed that 88 percent of the 167 children tested, all under six, had lead poisoning in 2010, a big jump from the 16 percent among 227 children tested in 2009.

The paper reports that Huo can’t explain the rise of the number of children with lead poisoning between 2009 and 2010. However, a decrease occurred in 2009, with the number of children testing positive for lead poising dropping from 81.8 percent to 16 percent, which Huo attributes to global economic conditions leading to reduced volumes of electronic scrap processed in Guiyu.

Huo has analyzed the blood of about 1,000 children since 2004 and found alarming levels of lead. Some had levels of at least 13 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, higher than the 10 micrograms that World Health Organization says is “cause for serious concern.” Many of the children, which are exposed to the toxic metal through air pollution and from dust on their parents work clothes, show signs of physical deformity, adversely-affected mental health and behavioral problems.