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QUESTION: Who can help explain the detrimental effects of lead to Shymkent Kazakhstan city politicians? 08/10/10  Surrey, UK - United Kingdom

"Lead", I am a British chemical engineer and have worked in the city if Shymkent Kazakhstan from 2001 to 2009 (I was on an oil refinery). I have now stopped (paid) work and am doing various voluntary activities,  helping tackle the many problems of Shymkent. I recently took samples of soil from a proposed children's play area in Shymkent (located about 2 kms from a lead plant) and found approximately 2,300 ppm lead!! I am seeking support to go to the city politicians and explain the detrimental effects of this lead. Can you point me in the right direction please for anyone I could exchange with over this topic. Thank you.


Jeff Temple.

ANSWER: Dec 22 2010

Dear Jeff,

I'm so sorry for not noticing your email in my overcrowded inbox. I'm doing a pre-holiday sweep of the unanswered emails and was mortified to find yours among them. Our charity has a full-time staff of one (me) answering some 8,000 emails per annum and doing lots of web-publishing and reporting and training and everything else required to run a charity so I hope you can forgive me for not getting back to you sooner.

The good news is that four of the items we've web-published this month should be particularly helpful to you, and additionally, last night I was advised by the World Health Organisation that they have a new guide for medical professionals on childhood lead poisoning prevention. Please see the links below:

  1. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to children [FACT SHEET]
  2. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to adults [FACTSHEET]
  3. Model Australian Public Health Policy on Lead
  4. BACKGROUND to the Model Australian Public Health Policy on Lead
  5. Childhood Lead Poisoning - World Health Organization 2010 

You could present our Model policy as being particularly helpful as a template for a policy for Kazakhstan and I would be more than happy to review any public health lead policy that came out of that process and find other lead experts who would review it for the Kazakhstan health department too.

The most important step in any country towards reducing lead exposure is to ban leaded petrol and it seems that, according to the Partnership for Cleaner Fuels & Vehicles (PCFV), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at - Kazakhstan has done that, but perhaps from your work in the refinery, you could actually give the PCFV - - a date as to WHEN leaded petrol was banned in Kazakhstan. According to our series of fact sheets listing the countries still selling leaded petrol (see the list at the end of Countries where Leaded Petrol is Possibly Still Sold for Road Use As at 17th June 2011), the ban occurred sometime between May 2007 and October 2008. If you were able to supply an accurate date, that would be great. Sometimes the ban is reported by UNEP as having happened and later it is found that the ban has not been enforced sufficiently to actually eradicate the sale of leaded petrol.

Secondly, in order to know what lead source should be the focus of any blood lead testing program or policy, it is critical to know how much lead paint has been allowed to be sold in Kazakhstan up to which years. For instance, if most housing was built after 1948 and the lead content of residential paint was limited to 0.25% by 1948, then lead paint would be a minor issue. Could you find out about paint lead regulations / standards?

I have only ever come across one Non-Government Organisation / Environment group representative from Kazakhstan in all my 20 years working on lead, so, hopefully, she might remember having talked to me at a United Nations meeting in 2008 and she might help you. Her details are:

Kaisha Atakhanova

Director, Karaganda Public Organization EcoCentre, NGO, Kazakhstan

Zhambul Street, 49 apt, 2

Karaganda QG 100012

Mobile  +77017180945

Also, the only recent research on childhood lead poisoning that we've seen coming out of England for many years is by Professor Alan Emond and his team at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, Hampton House, Bristol, England. Phone 1173310893,; and the article is:

“Effects of early childhood lead exposure on academic performance and behaviour of school age children” by K Chandramouli, C D Steer, M Ellis, A M Emond (2009), Arch Dis Child. 2009 Nov;94(11):844-8. Abstract at

All the best in your excellent project to raise awareness of lead contamination and lead's health and behavioural impacts in children (and adults) in Kazakhstan.

If you would like to write an article about your lead project volunteer work for our newsletter, we'd be very honoured to publish it. Please let me know if you are interested in this and I'll send you more details. The next copy deadline is 1st March 2011 and photos and other graphics are particularly welcome.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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