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The Lead Education and Abatement Design Group
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Media Release - 16 September 1994

Lead Workers - Second Class Citizens

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The new National Standard and Code of Practice for workers and lead may be an improvement on the old one, but according to Theresa Gordon of No-LEAD and Elizabeth O'Brien of The LEAD Group, it is a disgraceful effort by Worksafe, which falls short of a protective health standard for all lead workers.

"Worse still," says Gordon, "it writes discrimination on the basis of sex into a national standard. If lead work is not safe for women of childbearing age, then it is also not safe for men."

"Anti-discrimination considerations provide the opportunity to improve workplace health standards for all workers in the lead industry and this new standard is an inexcusable missed opportunity," says O'Brien.

In June 1993 the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) set the goal for blood lead for all Australians to be less than 10 g/dL (micrograms per decilitre). But this revised national lead workers standard allows blood lead levels up to 50 g/dL for all men and for women who can prove that they are sterile (eg have had a hysterectomy), thus effectively banning women from lead work.

Theresa Gordon who has worked tirelessly to clean up a dirty lead smelting industry in the Boolaroo Community near Newcastle, NSW, says, "Australia enjoys the benefits of trade and employment from the lead industry, but is willing to bend society's morals and sacrifice the health of lead workers as if they were second class citizens."

Contact: Theresa Gordon. ###

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Last Updated 09 March 2012
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