Twenty-four children between nine months and 16 years old have been hospitalized for lead poisoning caused by an illegal battery factory in their east China village, state media said Thursday.

The official Xinhua News Agency said local authorities had shut down the Borui Battery Co. Ltd. and another battery factory it did not name in Anhui province's Huaining county after tests found that at least 200 local children had elevated lead levels, with 24 of them requiring hospitalization.

Borui had failed to pass necessary environmental checks and had been operating illegally, Xinhua said.

Xinhua said both factories lie just across the street from homes, despite regulations that say battery plants cannot be within a 500-metre radius of residential communities. It did not say when the factories started operating or what kind of batteries the factories produced.

The report did not pinpoint exactly how the children were exposed.

China is the world's largest producer and consumer of lead, a key component in the lead-acid batteries needed for the growing number of cars and electric bikes in the country. New cases of lead poisoning regularly pop up around the country, underscoring the toll pollution is taking on the health of rural Chinese.

"My son is now very cranky and restless. He yells a lot," Dazhai, the father of a five-year-old boy who was found to have 330.9 micrograms of lead per litre of blood, was quoted as saying. Just 100 micrograms per litre is enough to impair brain development in children.