Results go both ways in latest Pirie blood-lead study

VARIABLE: Nyrstar and SA Health face mixed results from the latest survey.
VARIABLE: Nyrstar and SA Health face mixed results from the latest survey.

Lead-in-blood remains a many-headed monster that is still far from being slayed.

Latest survey results show an increase in exposure in one area and a decrease in another in a multi-faceted situation confronting Nyrstar lead smelter and SA Health.

The average exposure for all children tested in the first six months of this year was 4.2 micrograms per decilitre – a reduction of .3.

SA Health director of scientific services David Simon said he was cautiously optimistic that the trend would continue with the new furnace now operating.

“In some ways it is early days. All we can do is look forward to the future,” he said.

“It continues the trend in the first quarter when children’s exposure seemed to be falling.”

He conceded the other result – the average blood-lead level for children tested at two years old – was disappointing.

The level increased by .4 micrograms per decilitre to 5.5.

Dr Simon said authorities knew there had been an increasing amount of lead-in-air in the past two years.

“It is a little disappointing that the levels have gone up so much,” he said.

The average blood-lead level for two-year-olds is an indicator of trends in exposure for the whole population, 

Dr Simon said the toddlers played on the floor of houses and got lead dust on their fingers which they put in their mouths. “I would expect the result for that group to start falling,” he said.

A total of 402 children were tested and 57 two-year-olds were checked.