LEAD" OXYMORON OR FUTURE VISION?
Cornelia Dostb, Bei Quc a Manager, b,c Interns,
Global Lead Advice & Support Service (GLASS)
run by The LEAD Group Incorporated
Conference Paper Presented by Elizabeth O’Brien
at the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA)
Conference on Sustainable Development in the Product Stewardship
Tue 1st Nov 2005, 11am-1pm, Alice Springs
Leaded Petrol Ban
Facts of lead poisoning worldwide
Corporate work/International action
Global Lead Advice & Support
"Green Lead": Oxymoron or
Future Vision (text of speech)
I feel very welcomed by Betty and Darryl in the "Welcome to
Country" and I want to acknowledge my appreciation that they and the rest of the
Aranda people belong to this land and take such good care of it. And on my way here I drew
great strength from Uluru so Id like to acknowledge the Anangu people for the same
Some of you will know me as a campaigner against the harmful effects of lead and I found a
song expressing some community concerns, that Id like to sing to you:
When one campaigns against the harmful effects of a
product, its easy to come across as having blanket opposition to that product,
especially in the early stages of a campaign.
The LEAD Groups position is not blanket opposition to lead, though we might
like to see it phased out where safer alternatives can be found for this extremely useful
What we want is that lead is mined, smelted,
manufactured into products, used and recycled safely so that lead poisoning and lead
contamination (with the subsequent risk of poisoning) are prevented.
Is it possible, then for lead to be "green"? Lets briefly examine the
concept of "greenness": it includes [click for second dot point] the idea of
sustainability, and no product of mining can ever be sustainable, unless it can be
endlessly recovered and recycled. The concept of "greenness" also includes not
being harmful to humans and every other organism in the natural environment. Research on
the harmful effects of lead has largely concentrated on the effects on human health, and
not the destruction of landscape caused by waste dumps for  mining waste,  computers
(and here are some of the leaded components in computers)
 dead batteries and  cars, (and here are some of
the leaded components of cars)
but wait theres more
Lets distinguish between lead that is already in the
environment and lead
(theres a lot of lead out there) and lead and lead products yet to be made.
Or, to be more precise, past uses, present uses and future uses of lead. Public and
government perception in Australia is that with lead gone from petrol, the problem of lead
has been solved. It hasnt theres still the legacy of past use.
Theres a lot of lead contamination in any country thats had high volume motor
transport using leaded petrol. Leaded petrol was invented in 1922. 73 years later
its been phased out in just more than half the countries of the world. In the United
States it took 33 years to complete the phase out from 1972 to 1995. The lead from all
that petrol since 1922 is still there settled into dusts, soils, water bodies and
sediments. So far the only people doing anything about the petrol-sourced lead
contaminated ceiling dust are the Sydney Aircraft Noise Insulation Project
building owners and residents in Australian cities who know that theyve got the dust
and that its potentially dangerous. The ceiling dust removal component of SANIP cost
$10-12m in government money.
Whose responsibility should it be to pay for the identification and remediation of
affected sites? Whose responsibility is it to alert the public to the potential danger? At
the moment, The LEAD Group provides information that enables people to safely deal with
lead contamination from leaded petrol dust, leaded paint, or from any other source likely
to be found around a building, but people have to have an inkling of the possibility of
danger in the first place, to seek our services.
Wed like to see the lead mining companies helping persuade Australian governments to
hypothecate royalties from lead mining for lead awareness and information programs.
Naturally, wed like some funds directed towards us. At present, were
struggling on a total income of $25,000 this year to run The LEAD Groups Global Lead
Advice and Support Service (GLASS). Our thinking in The LEAD Group has evolved to the
point where we see ourselves, small as we are in terms of resources, and small as we are
in terms of staff currently all volunteers by the way as potential partners
of the mining industry in helping make lead "green" especially with the safe
management of the legacy of past uses of lead. Were not so small when it comes to
our web-users and the number of phone-calls and emails and other requests for information
that we receive.
A quarter of a million people from 176 countries have used our website to find out how
better to manage lead.
Last week we passed the milestone of [click for data] 30 factsheets now
web-published, [click for data] 44,000 call records (that is, phonecalls or emails) having
been entered in the database and [click for data] over one million fact-sheets and other
library items having been directly disseminated to people who we determined needed that
precise information at that time. Due to our internet presence, there is an inexorable
trend towards more and more of our enquiries coming from overseas. [Click for graph] 25%
of calls are currently from overseas. We have now dealt with direct enquiries from
over 80 countries. And heres some feedback about our service.
Feedback from GLASS Users]
are nearly a thousand ways to hear about our service and here are just 8 of them.
This last one from The Australian in 1993 points out that strokes and heart
attacks from hypertension caused by lead mainly from petrol, kills more people than do
Our research suggests that there are 81 (the darker orange) countries possibly
still using leaded petrol. I say "possibly", because even the United Nations,
the World Bank, and the International Fuel Quality Center cannot agree on which countries
still sell it. Our list of the 81 countries is divided like this
see that Africa, is probably the worst affected continent. This is especially so, given
that half the population is under the age of 15, because the younger the child at the time
of exposure, the greater the effect of even low levels of lead in the blood on the
development of the brain. So how much lead is bad?
Until recent years it was believed that keeping the populations blood lead level
below 10 micrograms per decilitre of blood was sufficient to keep leads effects to
an acceptable minimum, but even the
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) October 2005 policy says this is not protective enough and now recommends [click] a blood lead level as close to
zero as possible, acknowledging [click] the potential 7.4 IQ point drop when the
blood lead level rises from 0 to 10 µg/dL. AAP now recommends [click] universal blood lead
screening of ALL children and full lead removal from all homes, because it saves
money in the long run.
This in a country
the median blood lead level dropped nearly 8-fold from 15 µg/dL to 1.9
µg/dL over a 20
year period because lead was banned from gasoline, from water pipes, and from food
containers. The LEAD Group is participating in a United Nations program to help, and try
to encourage, countries still using leaded petrol, to phase it out. How can the Australian
lead mining industry help here? [click] Chiaradia et al., 1997 found that 40% of the lead
in the lead additive for petrol, comes from Australia. What pressure is the
Australian lead industry willing to exert to phase out this use of its product? How many
billions of children have been lead poisoned because of slow public health policy
implementation? How long will the global phase-out take? Leaded petrol is widely known to
have been the most efficient way to lead poison and contaminate the entire planet
yet its a sliver on this piegraph:
Other dispersive, mostly unrecoverable uses of greatest
concern are:- pigments and compounds (dark purple), and ammunition (light yellow). The
other main uses of lead already in existence and continuing as potential
sources of lead pollution, are lead batteries and electronic equipment, especially
computers and TVs. Is the lead in these products "green" in the sense I
referred to earlier, that is, that it causes no harm to humans and the environment? First,
lets look at the recycling of lead in batteries: the International Lead Zinc
Study Group estimates that 77.4% of the lead produced annually is manufactured into
batteries for vehicles, solar energy storage, emergency power supplies, submarines and
aircraft. Is the lead in batteries 100% recycled? In order to be recycled a battery first
has to be recovered
from where it is used or where it was dumped in the environment.
ILZSG says recovery is close to 100% yet this Chinese website quotes a recovery
rate of 1.5% and that means that in all future years the only acceptable annual recycling
rates i.e. number of batteries recycled over number produced in that year, should be well
Whats the real recycling rate? The Battery Council in
the US claims 99.2% but Peter Hurley of Blake International,
a United Kingdom OH&S consultancy argues that only 76% of battery lead is recycled
annually and asks where the other 1.1 million tonnes of lead ends up.
The problem is: [click for first point] it costs less to produce primary lead, than
to recycle. Theres also contention about what percentage of lead recovered from lead
acid batteries can be re-used in lead acid batteries. According to Dr Peter Hurley
battery makers can only use two thirds (65%) of what is recovered
from used lead acid batteries, and I quote: "Even in the US, much of the recovered
lead is exported. The reason this is so is because they use lead-antimony alloy, but
cannot use that alloy in the anode plate of the battery as its too corrosive in that
application. If they used lead-tin alloys then they could reuse nearly all the material
they recovered/recycled, provided they could keep it separate from the lead-antimony. But
they don't, because its more expensive and there are no regulations requiring tin
alloy batteries or labeling of the batteries to distinguish between the two alloys to keep
the recycling streams separate. Large scale international
marketing until battery collection and recycling is mandated, batteries will
continue to dissipate into the environment at an ever-increasing
rate while-ever car sales and vehicle kilometers traveled increase. And even if 100% of
Used Lead Acid Batteries were recovered and recycled, it would not mean that the lead in
batteries is "green" or safe, it depends on how it is recycled.
Electronic equipment is another rapidly growing consumer market.
One important question is: what percentage of first world lead
batteries and e-waste is exported to the third world for recycling? Does anyone know? In
90% of e-waste exported to the developing
world goes to China where 100,000 e-waste workers earn just
US$1.50 per day. The developed world relies on the Third World
to recover lead from batteries and electronic waste and to receive some developed world
lead that is recovered from these sources. How safely is this done? What is the exposure
of children, workers and the children of workers to the lead and other heavy metals?
a city in China that is the [click] e-waste dump of developed
Made in Austria, New York Stock Exchange Property Tag. Some e-waste comes from sources
you would think could make the effort to ensure that their e-waste is recycled to
the highest occupational health and environmental standards.
Childrens Playground? [click for teenager in fumes in India] But the reality
is different. [click]. Children - both as workers and the children of workers who live on
site - are exposed to environmental hazards.
This short film shows the working conditions of Indian and Chinese
recyclers. Workers obviously havent been warned that smoking while working is likely
to double the blood lead level, compared to a non-smoker in the same conditions. [right
mouse click on screen to run video] Its clear from the video that these workers are not
told of the hazards, nor given any training or personal protective gear or washing
facilities - simply a fatal combination when people are struggling to feed their families.
So being 100% recyclable is certainly not enough to make the use of lead and other heavy
metals safe or "green". Its how its incorporated into the product
and how the product is recycled that counts.
mentioned: ensure theres no Australian lead in petrol; and partner with GLASS, but
heres the beginnings of a further list and I want to hear from the audience later if
there are any other suggestions to add to this list. What are the barriers to action? Will
the lead industry voluntarily take responsibility for knowing how Australian-mined lead is
used and where the lead ends up? What would it take to get the Australian government - as
with uranium to require this? Find alternatives to minimize the use of lead in all
products. Were still waiting for Octel to stop manufacturing the lead petrol
additive, more than a decade after they started manufacturing alternatives. If no industry
made the lead additive for petrol, no country could continue to use it to poison their
population. This point would also entail industry not protesting if government imposes
internalised costs on non-recyclable leaded products.
The LEAD Group, we hope in
association with the Australian lead industry, feels a moral duty to inform those
countries to which Australian lead is exported, how to safely manage it. Whatever
the outcome of my suggestion of a partnership with industry, to help in the safe
management of lead, Id like to ask please, that you keep us The LEAD Group
up-to-date on new and safer products and processes such as BHPs "Green
Lead" system. We try to keep our web-readers up to date, but well do it better
if you keep us in the loop. And, finally, write to your
Mining Minister and local MPs.
Problems for lead companies]
Our vision is that all who use lead (ie everyone) will have
the appropriate information at the right time on how to safely manage it while working
with government and industry to eliminate non-recyclable, dispersive uses. [click for Only
a community group can focus on the real aim] With the right resourcing and passion, we
believe this to be attainable. It just hasnt happened yet.
Thankyou very much for your attention
Leaded Petrol Ban
Facts of lead poisoning worldwide
Corporate work/International action
Global Lead Advice & Support