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Media Release - For Immediate Release Monday 16th October 2000

Menzies Centre Study Mars Lead Poisoning Awareness Week

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The LEAD Group has revealed some shocking problems with a West Coast Tasmania blood lead study by the Menzies Centre for Population Research, to mark the start of Lead Poisoning Awareness Week (Monday 16th to Sunday 22nd October, 2000).

"What this study shows is that Australia has no real commitment to the aim that has kept The LEAD Group motivated for over 9 years - to eliminate lead poisoning and protect the environment from lead" according to Elizabeth O'Brien, National Coordinator of The LEAD Group Inc.

"The LEAD Group was first told about the Menzies Centre study in June 2000 but it took until October 13th before we were able to obtain a copy. I've just spent the weekend dissecting it and it's all bad news."

According to a 14 page report released today by The LEAD Group, the 32 page Menzies Centre study which was two years in the making, was poorly designed and executed with nearly half the data that was gathered not appearing in the results. The study's literature review failed to mention recent research findings about the health effects of even low levels of lead, that now appear to be more important than the well-known IQ loss - the only health effect of lead mentioned in the study. Effects such as behavioural change in two year olds, delinquency in older children, tooth decay, mobilization of lead from the bones in pregnancy, lactation and old age, and the deadly effects of hypertension all add up to a community wide problem that is not just affecting 1-4 year olds - the only ones tested in this study.

From the outset, the study concentrated only on those risk factors such as individual behaviours for which no industry or government agency would have direct responsibility, whilst ignoring soil lead levels (potential Council responsibility), use of mullock or tailings on parks, playgrounds and gardens and proximity to mining activities (potential mining company responsibility). Whilst purporting to determine whether mining practices or other factors were the determinants of high blood lead levels at the lead mining town of Rosebery, in fact the data was not analysed in a way that could demonstrate determinants of blood lead levels at Rosebery.

When the study turned up a cluster of 8 children with notifiable blood lead levels at Queenstown, a copper mining town, though the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines indicate the need for a full community lead program, only an education package was recommended by the Menzies Centre and even this has not materialised.

"The Queenstown outbreak of lead poisoning, heavy metal contamination from Mount Lyell of fish and sediments at Macquarie Harbour, backyard smelting contamination within one mile of Hobart GPO and various other lead hotspots in Tasmania prompted Greens MP Peg Putt to call for an inquiry in Parliament on 28th June 2000. The call was put to rest by a promise from Health Minister Fran Bladel that the most badly lead poisoned family resulting from lack of follow-up of the Menzies Centre study, would be provided with a lead-safe house. The family is still waiting 3 and a half months later. Have a heart Tasmania - this is Lead Poisoning Awareness Week. Find the badly affected children a safe house and a special school and implement the policies that will lead to the elimination of lead poisoning" says O'Brien. "And come on Australia - lead poisoning is too serious to be ignored any longer."

Contact: Elizabeth O'Brien 02 9716 0014 for a copy of the report and the study. ###

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Last Updated 09 March 2012
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