The parents of Chinese children made sick during the melamine-tainted milk scandal of 2008 say private tests have begun to show that kidney stones remain in many of the children to this day.
Parent activist Zhao Lianhai, whose child was 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 on its mailing list using donated funds.
"Some of the test results have already come back, and ... they show that the kidney stones are still present, as well as water retention by the kidneys," Zhao said.
He said similar results had been seen in children across China in recent months.
"One mother of a child in Lushan, Sichuan ... said her child has suddenly started having blood in its urine."
The Chinese government has exerted huge pressure on public hospitals and lawyers in the wake of the scandal not to assist the campaigning parents in any way.
A fund set up by the national Dairy Association has declined to meet with victims' families, or to allocate any funds in public, prompting suspicions that the money has been siphoned off by officials for other purposes.
Fundraising for tests
Zhao, who is still under medical parole after being sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail by Beijing's Daxing District People's Court last November, has led a vocal campaign seeking compensation for the victims of the scandal.
He said his group had managed to raise more than 100,000 yuan (U.S. $15,760) since it began fundraising earlier this year.
"It's not much, but we can use it to do a few things," Zhao said.
"We are now formally launching the campaign [to re-test the children] and we hope to gain a better understanding of the state of the kidney stone babies, three years on."
He said his group had contact details of around 300 families affected by the tainted milk powder, and called on more families to contact them for testing.
A second parent affected by the tainted milk powder, Jiang Yalin, said his child still had kidney stones, according to recent privately conducted tests.
"There were a lot of small kidney stones in both kidneys," Jiang said. "They paid our medical fees—for the testing—out of publicly donated money."
"I have heard from five or six other families that their kids still have kidney stones as well."
Zhengzhou-based parent Zhu Baoqing said there had been little change for the better in the health of his child, either.
"We have just done the tests, and there hasn't been much change; there's a lot of acid in the urine and there were still two kidney stones," he said.
"It's been ... three years now," Zhu said. "The doctor told us there wasn't any medical treatment they could offer."
A total of 21 people were convicted for their roles in the scandal, and two were executed.
The government said after the 2008 scandal that it had destroyed all tainted milk powder, but reports of melamine-laced products have regularly re-emerged.Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.