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Media Release August 14th, 2003

USA leads in lead-poisoning elimination

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Leading Australian lead campaigner, Elizabeth O’Brien, is calling on the federal and state governments to follow America’s example in managing the lead-poisoning issue.

In the United States, Senators Hillary Clinton and Mike Dewine are sponsoring legislation that would allow homeowners a tax credit of up to 50 per cent on the cost of removing lead paint.

According to congress findings, an estimated 38 million housing units in America contain lead based paint, with 25 million of these posing a health hazard according to Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards.

In Australia, there are approximately 3.5 million houses with lead based paint, most of them built before 1970 but no government agency could tell you how many pose a lead hazard, or which houses in particular, despite Australia's booming renovation industry.

When this paint is sanded, scraped or is peeling it creates a dangerous lead dust that is easily inhaled or swallowed causing lead-poisoning in people and animals.

The US Department of HUD annually announces US$75 million or more in lead remediation grants which have brought the number of at-risk children down to around one million in the USA today. This year, eight years after lead petrol was eliminated in the US the American National Lead Information Center – just one of America’s organisations working to reduce lead-poisoning – received an allowance of US$2 million to fund outreach and education programs alone.

In contrast, the Lead Advisory Service Australia (LASA), will receive only $20,000 from the New South Wales state government after Environment Australia suspended their $20,000 per annum federal government support in June 2003 because "lead is no longer a priority air issue". The only national blood lead study ever conducted on Australian children estimated that in 1996 there were 75,000 lead poisoned under-5 year olds in Australia.

Six weeks into the financial year, LASA's unpaid staff are still waiting for the NSW grant so have had to suspend the service and look for volunteers to run it in the future unless a grant supplies money for wages. The Service, formed in 1992 by parents of lead poisoned children, has done more to prevent lead poisoning and raise awareness in Australia than any other body.

Since June 1995 the Lead Advisory Service has handled more than 33,000 enquiries by Freecall, and by email - from the popular website www.lead.org.au - from people within Australia and from 50 countries around the world, requesting information and assistance on preventing lead poisoning. This Global Lead Advice & Support Service is unique in the world as none of the US lead poisoning prevention programs answer queries from outside the USA.

For more information, please contact:
Elizabeth O’Brien, Manager, Global Lead Advice and Support Service, (02) 9716 0966 ###

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Last Updated 26 March 2012
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