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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Review of Ros Kelly’s Lead Roundtable

REFERENCE 3: Lead *Roundtable Agreements. 29th July 1993.

*The Lead Roundtable was convened by federal Environment Minister Ros Kelly and involved over 150 delegates from all Australian governments, car, petrol, paint and mining industry groups, unions and environment and consumer groups. The Lead Roundtable agreements below were reached by consensus at the daylong meeting on 29th July 1993.

  • It was agreed that there are compelling health reasons to reduce lead in petrol. To do so should be a principal element in a national lead abatement strategy. Comment – reducing lead in petrol and a public information campaign were the only 2 elements in the "national lead abatement strategy".

  • There was broad support for a national approach with recognition of regional/state circumstances. There was universal agreement that the problem was serious and warranted urgent action by all concerned. Comment – action was taken.

  • There was agreement that petrol sourced from Victoria and NSW move to 0.2 g/L at 96 RON by the end of 1994 and that other States move to 0.3 g/L at 96 RON and aim to get to 0.2 g/L by 1995 provided that octane demand can be significantly reduced. It is encouraging to see that oil companies have given a commitment to move towards 0.2 g/L by the end of 1995. A total phaseout should be achieved as soon as practical. Comment – the phased reductions occurred but I don’t believe 2002 as a total phase-out date constitutes "as soon as practical".

  • The impact of a reduction of the RON rating below 97 be further assessed between now and 1994. Comment – it was found to have negligible impact.

  • There was support for urgent study of the possibilities and implications of the use of additives such as MTBE as a substitute for lead. Comment – achieved.

  • There was unanimous agreement on a national education campaign targeted at consumers and petrol station operators to be undertaken as a partnership initiative between Governments, industry, unions and community and trade organisations with a particular focus on the health benefits and information at the pump. There was also support for the suggestion that the name of Super be changed to Leaded petrol. Comment – achieved.

  • Without delaying action, there was support for selective studies in partnership with industry and other relevant bodies such as NHMRC of the incidence and distribution of blood lead levels to monitor the effectiveness of the interventions. Comment – an inner Sydney blood lead survey of young children was published in 1996 which found that the percentage of children with a blood lead level over the Australian goal of 10 µg/dL had halved (from 50 % of children to 25 % of children) since a similar study published in 1992. No other study or pairs of studies could be said in any way to have monitored the effectiveness of the petrol and education interventions. If the national blood lead survey of Australian children were revised and reported accurately, and a follow-up study were done, this would also provide some comparative data to monitor the effectiveness of the lead in petrol reduction and education campaign Australia-wide.

  • The importance of a price differential was emphasised by many participants. The economic and equity implications were noted. The importance of an incentive element in a total package and the fact that the cost of manufacture of leaded fuel was now greater than that of unleaded was recognised. Price differentials of between 2c and 5c per litre were canvassed. While the community groups, Victoria and some industry groups strongly urged the case for price differentials, some State and Territory Governments emphasised their reservations. Comment – a 1c price differential was introduced in 1993 and increased to 2c in 1994.

  • The need to monitor the effects of measures adopted and to reassess strategies in 12 months time was emphasised. At that point vehicle modification and possible vehicle replacement strategies may have to be considered. Comment – the Lead Roundtable Review was held in Adelaide on 20th September 1994 but because only the lead petrol and education strategies had been implemented, no representatives from paint, mining or other lead industries were invited to the review. The meeting almost exclusively looked at leaded and unleaded petrol sales statistics and air lead monitoring data as no blood lead data had been collected for monitoring purposes. Negligible problems with the octane reduction were noted, as was the need to include education on benzene in further education campaigns, to overcome the successful benzene scare campaign that had been helped by the poor methodology and the media’s misinterpretation of data from the benzene study by the University of Technology in Sydney. The EPA’s "intention to establish a national protocol for testing devices" [to modify vehicles so they can run on unleaded petrol] and agreement that the "significant problem" of misleading claims on the devices "would be drawn to the attention of Consumer Affairs when the protocol was finalised." I am not aware of this follow-up having occurred. Delegates at the Lead Roundtable Review were advised that "ANZECC [Australia New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council] had established a working party to look at the use of economic instruments in achieving environmental objectives. A report should be available in 6 months… Delegates discussed a range of investigations and reports relating to vehicle replacement schemes, concluding that this was a complex issue with major ramifications." In 1999, a report by OECD and UNEP (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and United Nations Environment Program) - "Phasing Lead Out of Gasoline: An Examination of Policy Approaches in Different Countries" stated categorically that:

"It has now been conclusively demonstrated in a variety of countries, that taxation policies that ensure that unleaded gasoline is cheaper than leaded gasoline can be very effective in accelerating the rapid introduction of unleaded fuel."

  • The public transport option was also pointed to as deserving closer consideration. Comment – it was stated at the Lead Roundtable Review that the issue of use of public transport was being reviewed by the Department of Urban and Regional Development." Smogbusters is an initiative of Environment Australia run by environment groups, funded for most of the time since 1995, with a focus on public transport use, cycling and walking.

  • It was agreed it would be useful to investigate the way that premium ULP might contribute to reducing lead use in the longer term. Comment – this was not discussed at the Lead Roundtable Review, though it was stated that the development of a National Environmental Standard for Petrol "had been funded as part of the National Lead Abatement Strategy".

  • Finally it was agreed that all Governments would work towards the development of a National Lead Abatement Strategy including appropriate strategies for remediation of areas with site-specific lead problems. Comment – it was stated in the minutes of the Lead Roundtable Review that "NSW and Victoria were working towards a lead abatement strategy" but that any future national "lead abatement activities would be discussed at ANZECC [in November 1994]" and initiation of additional activities was dependent on "results of the National Blood Lead Survey" and completion of current projects. "Outstanding lead abatement issues were in mining, education and training. Contaminated sites and problems related to lead in paint were State/Territory matters." The WA EPA delegate stated that "lead in paint was not a significant issue in Western Australia." The Queensland environment department delegate tried to claim that "Queens-land did not have a problem with lead in paint" but the manager of the national Lead Advisory Service [the present writer] countered this. I also expressed concern that the federal government was not addressing the NHMRC's published lead strategy recommendations (see above). "It was pointed out that lead abatement activities at the national level were being carried out in accordance with the recommendations of the Lead Roundtable" This statement clearly related to every recommendation of the Lead Roundtable except this one that I am commenting on.

IMPORTANT REQUEST TO READERS – I have written italicised comments after each component in the following government plans regarding consumer products – but I would love to hear from you if my comment is wrong or incomplete and will be happy to print a retraction with the good news about what has actually happened, in a later issue of LEAD Action News.

Review of NSW Lead Issues Paper 
Review of NHMRC Strategy
Review of Ros Kelly’s Lead Roundtable
Review of NSW Lead Management Action Plan 
Review of NSW Parliamentary Select Committee 
Review of OECD Declaration

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