LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News Volume 7 No 4, 2000, 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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By Elizabeth O’Brien, National Coordinator, The LEAD Group Inc.

Every use of lead hurts someone, somewhere, sometime

Let’s face it – consumer products are to blame for practically every lead poisoning case in the world – at some stage or another in the life of the product, lead poisons people and the environment.

The biggest culprit for lead poisoning the whole population is leaded petrol. And whatever lead is available to the whole population does more damage in children. According to the NHANES research in JAMA (Pirkle et al 1994), the percentage of US children aged 1-5 years with a blood lead level above 10 g/dL [the "acceptable level"], dropped from 85.0% (in 1976) to 5.5% (in 1991) and the researchers attributed this massive decline mostly to the reduction (by 99.8%) of lead in petrol in the same period. The minor contributor was a change in another leaded consumer product – lead-soldered food cans – which were replaced to a large extent by welded cans over the same period. The remaining major cause of lead poisoning of US children is regarded to be a third consumer product - leaded paint. Simply reducing the amount of lead in paint to a "safe level" has the unfortunate result that while people think the problem has been solved, in reality, the paint our governments have allowed in the past will plague us for about another hundred years.

The classic argument put by manufacturers of leaded products is that the contribution their leaded product makes to lead poisoning and lead contamination, is less than some other product. This argument can be used by the manufacturers of every product right up to the most hazardous or most contaminating. And as long as each of the top two says They're not as bad as the other (ie paint and petrol manufacturers), then everyone feels justified in using as much lead as they need to keep their profits up.

Manufacturers that use smaller amounts of lead hope that no-one will notice, eg candle manufacturers, while makers of showy products get away with it because they’re so popular eg fireworks, bullets, lead shot, sinkers and lead acid batteries in vehicles. Encouraged by our success with banning lead core wick candles in Australia in 1999, The LEAD Group is aiming for three very popular products in 2000 – we seek: -

  • a phase-out of leaded petrol in Australia by the end of 2000, and

  • a ban on lead, cadmium, mercury & arsenic (at least) in fireworks used in the centenary of federation / new year celebrations on 31/12/2000, and

  • a worldwide ban on lead in the wicks of candles by the end of 2000

You will have to wait until the next issue of LEAD Action News to hear about the good things happening in the world to phase out leaded petrol, as well as the beginning of what feels like it will be a torrent of information on fireworks pollution. You have seen the sum total of Australia's four recalls of leaded consumer products on the front page. Apparently, although the federal minister has recall powers, Australian manufacturers usually undertake a voluntary recall. Then, most importantly, we have in this edition of LEAD Action News, the good news about Australia being the first country in the world to ban lead in the core of the wicks of candles; followed by the US candle fiasco that should put an end to anyone’s trust in industry voluntary bans. Lastly there's a huge section with the first instalments of my reviews of what's happened in each of 6 government plans that have been written. In the middle there's a general flurry of studies, articles and letters about leaded and other toxic consumer products and who makes them, which help to remind us that:

What you buy today is waste tomorrow – buy wisely or better still, don’t buy at all.

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Last Updated 20 November 2013
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