First lead level results since new guideline

Marlie Fleming, 6, centre, has her blood-lead level tested at the Environmental Health Centre and is accompanied by her mother Crystal and sister Lara, 3, who also had her level assessed a fortnight earlier.
Marlie Fleming, 6, centre, has her blood-lead level tested at the Environmental Health Centre and is accompanied by her mother Crystal and sister Lara, 3, who also had her level assessed a fortnight earlier.

THE average lead level among Port Pirie children continues to remain steady, below those recorded 10 years ago.

SA Health’s first results published since the introduction of a new national guideline for investigating lead exposure back this up.

“A decade ago the average lead level of Port Pirie children under five years old was 8.3 micrograms per decilitre, well above the new Nation-al Health and Medical Research Council exposure investigation guide- line level of 5mcg,” said SA Health’s director of public health, Dr Kevin Buckett.

“Today, thanks to the efforts of the State Government together with Port Pirie Regional Council, Nyrstar and the community, the average lead level among children under five has significantly reduced to 4.6mcg.”

In May, the research council reduced the level for investigation from 10 to 5mcg.

“The results for children tested in the first six months of this year indicate that lead levels have remained steady, with the percentage of children above 10mcg slightly up on the same time last year,” Dr Buckett said.

“It is more important than ever that children continue to be tested and that we work together to make a concentrated effort to reduce lead exposure to ensure as many Port Pirie children as possible are below 5mcg.”

According to the results, more than half the Port Pirie children tested in the first half of this year have levels below the new target of 5mcg compared with 30 percent in 2006.

“The change in recommendation supports our goal of reducing the blood lead levels of children in Port Pirie and aligns with SA Health and the Targeted Lead Abatement Program (TLAP) focus on early intervention to prevent children’s lead levels from rising,” said TLAP implementation manager Dianah Mieglich.

“SA Health already reviews children with a result above 4mcg and sometimes even lower, investigating possible sources of contamination and developing strategies with families to reduce exposure.”

Efforts to reduce levels have included public awareness, regular washing down of walkways and play equipment and free blood-lead testing.   

Port Pirie mother Crystal Fleming brought her daughter Marlie, 6, in for a routine test and says it is essential to monitor blood-lead levels. 

“I think it is very important to get tested. Just to touch base and check up,” Miss Fleming said.

“To keep their levels down, I always make sure my children wash their hands before they eat and keep their toys outside.”