LEAD Action News Vol
1 no 2 Winter 1993 ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Principles of a good strategy for the control of
Establishing a strategy for the control of lead is
complex. Lead is very widely distributed in the environment and is toxic
to people and all other forms of life. Lead has been used for a long
time. It already has many existing uses and new uses are being
developed. Some uses of lead, such as lead additive in petrol, result in
this toxic substance being dispersed into the air, dust, soil, waterways and food, where it contaminates people
and the ecosystem. For some applications, such as car batteries the
lead is recoverable by secondary processing.
Any strategy addressing the control of lead needs
to follow nine essential principles in order to achieve the objective of
reducing background lead levels in the environment and human exposure
to it, with particular emphasis on young children.
Comprehensive approach. The strategy needs to be
comprehensive, ie covering all aspects of past, current and new uses of
lead. Past uses of lead may cause current exposure eg the removal of
Control lead at its source ≠adopt the
"Hierarchy of Control Measures". This principle leads to a focus on primary
prevention, ie identifying and removing sources of lead exposure and
controlling it as close as possible to the source, before children are
harmed, eg the control measures which have the highest priority for
available resources for lead in petrol would aim at reducing the average
lead content of all petrol sold and reducing the total volume of petrol
sales. Teaching caregivers to increase house cleaning and hygiene to
stop the lead dispersed in exhaust fumes from poisoning their children
is the lowest rung on the hierarchy and should never be seen as a
permanent solution. This hierarchy needs to be applied wherever lead (or
any toxic substance) occurs: work; home; beyond.
Cradle to grave management. The government needs to maintain control of toxic
substances throughout their life, from the source, along the pathways,
to the fate for each use which is allowed.
Sunset clauses for certain uses of lead. A sunset initiative ensures that lead and other
chemicals with risks considered incompatible with ecologically
sustainable development (ESD) would be phased out either totally or for
certain uses as safer, acceptable alternatives become available. A
document prepared for the OECD recommended that sunset initiatives were
appropriate given the toxicity of lead and recommended that these be included within the wider concept of risk
"reduction" (OECD "Cooperation on Existing Chemicals:
Risk Reduction Lead Country Report on Lead", May 1991). The
strategy should adopt sunset measures for certain uses of lead.
Immediate action on top priorities. Currently, phasing out lead additive in petrol is
the number one priority. Within other OECD countries, the phase down of
lead additive in petrol has been the most important single factor in
reducing blood lead levels. A range of actions can be taken to reduce
the amount of lead dispersed by the use of leaded petrol. Some of these
actions could be taken immediately.
Timetable. The strategy needs to set real dates in a schedule
of phase down for lead in petrol. It also needs to specify dates for
other legislative or policy changes to control current and new uses of
Community consultation and representation. Generally, community cons≠ultation is desirable.
The value of consultation may be considerable in developing some
objectives, such as the preparation of codes of practice for removing
lead paint. However, some other objectives, such as the reduction of
lead in petrol does not require consultation, although discussions will
be necessary between government officials and petrol refiners.
Therefore, it is undesirable to subject the entire strategy to consultation which would
serve to further delay its distribution and implementation. Owing to the scope of some objectives within the
strategy, it would be appropriate to constitute subcommittees which
could consult on a regional basis. It would also be
appropriate to include community representation on the Lead Taskforce.
Co-ordinated approach. The strategy should be a co≠ordinated approach
between all relevant portfolios, their respective government agencies,
and the three spheres of government federal, state and local, rather
than solely the responsibility of the environment protection authority.
Among the State government agencies which would need to be included are
those responsible for health, transport (roads and traffic and trains),
public works, public housing, workers health and safety, technical and
further education, waste management, land management, water supply,
local government, sport and recreation, and fisheries.
Reporting on progress. The strategy should have written into it the
mechanisms for reporting to the community on the rate of implementation
and success of the strategy.