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  QUESTION: Effects of lead in our ecosystem & lead poisoning from Broken Hill lead, 30 Sep 2004, South Australia

Dear Sir/Madam

I am a student from Glenunga international High school in South Australia. I am currently doing a research on lead poisoning for Stage 2 biology. I have found very good information in your website, regarding how lead poisoning can be harmful to humans.

I would like you to send me any information you have on affects of lead in our ecosystem and environment. I would really appreciate if you would also send me information on lead poisoning due to broken hill mining industries.


ANSWER: 30 Sep 2004

Dear Rajan,

Apologies for the delay in responding due to the total absence of paid staff and the overwhelming number of enquiries for one volunteer (me!) to answer. I hope you are still working on this assignment. Here are some articles (attached) that may be of use and a recent one (pasted in below) about lead poisoning in Port Pirie, which is where the Broken Hill lead is smelted. I'm sorry I don't have enough information on where the Broken Hill lead goes once it leaves Port Pirie to give you some idea of how much lead poisoning it causes on its endless journey through the world but if you are still working on this assignment and would like to send me a postal address or fax number, I could send you a newspaper article explaining the tragedy of lead acid battery recycling for instance in India - where the job is often done by children. In a recent study, it was found that 50% of Indian children are lead poisoned (ie have a blood lead level above 10 g/dL - the Australian and US benchmark). Some 70% of the world's lead now goes into lead acid batteries so there's a fair chance that Broken Hill lead is the same (ie 70% goes into lead acid batteries) - it kind of makes you feel ashamed to be an Australian doesn't it?

Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien,

Subject: Re:Article from ABC

"Smelter 'to blame'for children's blood lead levels"

Last Update: Wednesday, September 15, 2004. 8:14am (AEST) Smelter 'to blame' for children's blood lead levels. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) says a recent rise in children's blood lead levels in Port Pirie in South Australia is a result of increased production at the city's Zinifex smelter.

A recent review has shown a slight rise in the blood lead levels of children in some parts of the city for the first time in three years.

The EPA's Brian Roderick says most of the historical lead contamination in the city has been cleaned up.

He says the recent increase in blood lead levels is due to the smelter's daily operations.

"We believe that what we're seeing now is the effects of production levels and production on the community," he said.

"If production was up we'd expect a rise of dust emissions from the plant until we have fulfilled our program of reducing all of the... dust."

The State Opposition says the problem of rising lead levels in Port Pirie has been exacerbated by a level of complacency.

Opposition health spokesman Dean Brown says Port Pirie's lead program had been working effectively for the past 20 years.

But he says there is obviously a need to revamp the program.

"It's very important indeed that the State Government increases the effort to clean up Port Pirie to make sure there is a safe environment for children to be brought up in," he said.

"I think it's important that the community of Port Pirie comes out very strongly indeed and advocates a continuation of the program, but with increased effort by the State Government."

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