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MEDIA RELEASE 21st December 2002

Bad news & lead dust under the Christmas tree

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The latest news from the USA is that old PVC Christmas trees can give off dangerous lead dust. Foundation EARTH [] warns that young children should not play under these Christmas trees and anyone handling them should wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

But there's other bad news on lead. Staff of the Lead Advisory Service Australia (LASA) haven't had wages for running the service for the past two years so there won't be many presents under their Christmas trees. Apart from a one year grant of $10,000 from Wests Ashfield received on 4 December 2002, the four LASA staff haven't got a cracker for wages.

From its tiny premises in Summer Hill, in the last year LASA dealt with 5,004 calls for information and assistance on preventing lead poisoning and preventing lead entering the environment.

The administrative costs, such as the internet and phone bills and postage, are paid for until June 2003 by the Federal government, but, as things stand, the service can’t continue on just the West’s money for the next year.

"From 1995 to 2000, LASA has received between $150,000 and $300,000 in annual government grants" says Elizabeth O’Brien, National Coordinator of The LEAD Group, the community organisation which runs the advisory service.

"The intention was that we help implement the national lead strategy and NSW government’s Lead Management Action Plan, and provide the public with information and referrals," she says.

"The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) hasn’t given us any money for the service for the last two years despite 64% of our calls coming from NSW and promises in Parliament that both EPA and NSW Health would provide funding. We’ve had money for a "project" for NSW Councils, which has kept staff going on part-time wages, whilst at the same time running the advisory service, without being paid wages to do so, for the past two years. Now the project is finished, but the EPA and Health Department won’t entertain the idea of renewing funding for the advisory service unless we jump through the hoop of seeking funding from other Australian states and from the Commonwealth. We’re trying, believe me, but without much luck so far."

"We can’t keep running the advisory service for much longer, unless NSW Health and EPA grants are forthcoming. We’ve demonstrated the need for our service - the danger of exposure to lead isn’t going to go away just because there’s no lead in petrol any more. We want to be here for all the Christmas renovators but staff can't live on air."

For further information, contact Elizabeth O’Brien on (02) 9716 0014 or journalist Isla Bindon-Howell on (02) 9664 4750 for the full story. ###

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Last Updated 26 March 2012
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