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QUESTION: Lead poisoning case study in Western Sydney. 23 Apr 2004, New South Wales Australia

I am doing research into Lead poisoning and contamination and am trying to develop a case on Western Sydney. I have not as yet come across any major heavy metal or Pb pollution in Western Sydney to base such a case study on. I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction. I have located information from the 1999 NPI stating the ACI Glass at Penrith was the second highest Lead emission polluter that FY. I am wondering about the impact of the ADI site at St Mary's, previously used as a munitions dumping and manufacturing site. Have you any information regarding this site and lead levels?

Thank you,
Michelle Mandl

ANSWER: 23 Apr 2004

Dear Michelle,

It has always been one of the great mysteries as to why Western Sydney has more elevated blood lead levels reported to the Public Health Unit than any other area of Sydney [see Reports of Notifiable Conditions - sometimes wrongly classified as Infectious Diseases - in the Public Health Bulletins at]. The NSW government toyed with the idea of investigating this anomaly but to my knowledge did nothing. Most theories would place a higher rate of cases closer to the oldest industry and housing and higher traffic densities in the inner city area and the Mira et al study of lead poisoning prevalence in children under 5 certainly confirmed this prevalence pattern. I can only email you parts of the Mira study so please find the bits attached. [FULL TEXT OF REVIEW VERSION OF ARTICLE: mira.txt; FIRST HALF OF FINAL ARTICLE: mira article.html; Figure 1: mirabig.gif]

That presumably leaves people older than 5 to explain the high numbers of people in Western Sydney with elevated (notifiable) blood lead levels and I have always wondered whether these are in fact workers and whether they are followed up by the Public Health Dept or just left to WorkCover who would typically do nothing. Please read the attached fact sheet I started writing on this topic before I lost all my staff due to funding cuts (I now work for no wages). It's called "Lead Poisoning Surveillance in Australia

I therefore advise you to phone the Western & Wentworth PHU (Public Health Unit) at Parramatta on 98403603 and phone Michele Patterson, Assistant General Manager OH&S Division, WorkCover Authority NSW on (switch) 43215000 to ask them whether they've followed up any notified cases of lead poisoning that might give you a case study. While you're talking to WorkCover, you might as well ask them why they have the outrageously high level for notification of 50 g/dL [50 micrograms / decilitre] lead in blood (see attached article "Early death in adults linked to lead exposure - US study", from page 37 of ACTU Digest of Occupational Health and Safety Information, No. 17 June 2003.) and why they don't collate or report on the notifications that they do receive so that cases can be followed up and industries that keep producing cases can be cleaned up.

You could also try ringing Battery Traders at Lansvale on 9725 6744, Besco Batteries at Regents Park on 9644 9966, Pope Batteries at Kings Park on 9622 3223, GNB (Battery Manufacturer) at Padstow on 1300365959, or Century Yuasa Batteries P L at Regents Park on 9743 9255 to ask them if they would like to have a case study written about them. I hope this helps and I'd be very interested to receive an emailed copy of your case study.

Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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