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QUESTION: lack of Australian foetal lead poisoning prevention measures, 23 May 2004, Queensland Australia

To Whom This May Concern,

I am writing to ask about the prevention measures and programs in place to stop lead poisoning in unborn children.

It would be greatly appreciated, if you have such information if you could please email or mail it to me.

Thank you!
Skye Perkins

ANSWER: 24 May 2004

Dear Skye,

to my knowledge there is no particular Health Dept policy either federally or in any state or territory in Australia that is aimed at foetal lead poisoning prevention. There are scattered good ideas being put in place in scattered places such as the Martyr Hospital and the Natural Fertility Clinic in Sydney which both ensure that all pregnant couples and prospective parents respectively are given fact sheets on lead poisoning prevention. The NSW Health Dept has published a page on lead poisoning prevention in "Pregnancy Care" and I notice that this book for pregnant couples has definitely wandered outside NSW both north and south. The Broken Hill, Mount Isa and Port Pirie communities are apparently provided with information to prevent foetal lead poisoning due to the presence of lead mines or smelters in their communities. I don't believe such programs exist however for, for instance the people of all the other lead mining or smelting communities in Australia, eg Cobar NSW or Rosebery Tasmania mines or Hobart lead smelter.

The greatest action of the federal government which would have impacted on blood lead levels in foetuses is to have banned leaded petrol as of 1st January 2002 but the policy was not only targeted to protecting foetuses. It would undoubtedly have reduced the blood lead level of the entire population, although there's no evidence on that since a national blood lead survey of adults has never been carried out and the planned follow-up to the national pre-school children's blood lead survey has not been done either.

If you are asking what should or could be done to prevent foetal lead poisoning, then that is a whole different story. Take home lead dust, for instance, is said in the United States to account for up to 30% of all cases of lead poisoning in children, so control of lead at work (eg for painters, demolishers, radiator repairers, electronics solderers etc) so as to prevent take-home dust, would be an important first step in also protecting the foetus. Many renovators would be causing foetal lead poisoning in Australia as we speak. Renovators are apparently 5 times more likely to have miscarriages than people not renovating. Please let me know if you need some advice on what to do about the problem.

Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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