Pencil pushers

Child w

Contrary to popular opinion, pencils haven’t been made of lead since the discovery of graphite 450 years ago.

The latest to make this common blunder was an official in Hunan, after 300 children took blood tests that showed lead levels far in excess of national standards. Parents are blaming untreated waste from a nearby chemical factory, which was shut down last week, according to the Global Times. But Su Genlin from the township’s government was reluctant to make the same link. “Students, when they’re studying at school, they chew on pencils,” he claimed. “That can also cause lead poisoning.”

The media lined up to ridicule Su’s explanation. “It is scientific knowledge that pencils are made from graphite,” an op-ed in the People’s Daily scoffed. “Does this official’s statement show ignorance, or just disregard for the people’s welfare?”

Netizens were similarly unimpressed. “His own brain has been poisoned,” one claimed. “How can a normal person say something like that?”

“It seems he sucked on too many pencils as a child,” another joked darkly.

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