LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 7 no 3, 1999, 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.

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Needleman: Source Control & Abatement are Essential

By Elizabeth O'Brien, National Coordinator, The LEAD Group Inc.

There are few internationally renowned lead researchers who could be described as being passionate about the elimination of lead poisoning, but most people who know about such things, would readily identify Prof Herbert Needleman as one such person. Needleman is the quintessential campaigner among medical scientists, who has the tenacity and perseverance to overcome government lassitude and to bring back on track those of us who sometimes forget to focus on the main learnings. Needleman has yet again written a brilliant article on childhood lead poisoning prevention that everyone should read but I will be so bold as to summarise as:

Paradoxically, without sufficient blood lead screening having been done, there is a widespread dangerous belief that the lead problem has been fixed.

It costs much more to society to allow children to be lead poisoned than it costs to prevent it. Lead abatement is worth the investment yet the belief that lead abatement is unaffordable persists.

Advice about house cleaning and minimal home maintenance (rather than lead abatement) arises out of a "belief that lead poisoning is a product of poor mothering, not of environmental pollution. This weighting of personal choice or behaviour over environment is a tool used to shift responsibility away from health authorities or polluters and onto the victim." Governments choose to educate and screen selectively (US) [or not at all (Australia)], because it's cheap to do so. [In Australia, even lead education is being phased out.]

Policymakers have failed to see that lead abatement not only prevents lead poisoning, it also creates jobs in areas of high unemployment which typically are the very areas where lead contamination is worst.

When I mentioned to lead campaigner Theresa Gordon (Newcastle, NSW) that I had been told by an EPA staffer that the latest unpublished Health Department research findings from lead mining town Broken Hill were that education of parents is more effective than remediation of houses, she responded "I find turning off the tap [controlling lead emissions at the source] is the most effective of all."

Ref: Childhood Lead Poisoning: The Promise and Abandonment of Primary Prevention Am J. Public Health 1998 Dec; 88(12):1871-1877 by H L Needleman Lead Research Group, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pa., USA. hlnlead@vms.cis.pitt.edu



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Last Updated 12 October 2011
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