|LEAD Action News vol
11 no 1, September 2010, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times (ISSN 1440-4966) & Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor: Anne Roberts
by Anne Roberts
This issue of LEAD Action News coincides almost exactly with the twentieth anniversary of the genesis of The LEAD Group.
We begin with an article, in the form of question-and-answer, written by Dr Chrissie Pickin, Deputy Director of Public Health in Tasmania. Dr Pickin raises various objections to our last newsletter, LANv10n4, which was mainly devoted to the mining town of Rosebery.
Noela Whitton’s article, written in 1993, but never published, is an interview with Elizabeth O’Brien, a founder and now President of The LEAD Group.
The next article, “What became of?” ... answers some of the questions posed by Michelle Calvert, arising out of Noela Whitton’s article. Calvert is Vice-President of The LEAD Group, and was Education Officer at the time when The LEAD Group had full funding.
Next is my article on Elizabeth and The LEAD Group twenty years on, which attempts to pick out milestones in the 20-year history of The LEAD Group.
In our Letters section: “To and Fro,” Susy Retnowati comments on a Report, by Suherni, in English “Lead poisoning in Indonesia" and Indonesian, ”Keracunan Timbal di Indonesia. There is an extract from a letter by Professor Tony McMichael on lead in polar ice caps, and a long letter by Elizabeth O’Brien to the NHMRC, on re-setting the blood lead level goal.
There are two articles which deal, in different ways, with the concept of “Peak Lead”. (An expression with which you may not be familiar, but you will have heard of “Peak Oil.”) The same concept, as proposed by Hubbert in 1956, applies – namely, “that after fossil fuel reserves (oil reserves, coal reserves, and natural gas reserves) are discovered, ‘production at first increases approximately exponentially, as more extraction commences and more efficient facilities are installed. At some point, a peak output is reached, and production begins declining until it approximates an exponential decline.’ ” [Wikipedia]
Given the toxic potential of lead, one could perhaps imagine that it might be a good thing for lead production to have past its peak, but Gavin Mudd’s article makes it clear that this is not so: “As grades decline, energy costs increase and so do greenhouse gas emissions and water requirements, plus more mine waste is produced such as tailings (rock remaining after lead-zinc extraction, normally some 80-90% of the ore), plus any waste rock produced from open cut or underground mines.”
Ian Smith goes into the question of “Peak Food”: “Our position is one of reducing fuel energy available for food transport (which will result ultimately in reduced food) and significant & increasing heavy metals contaminants in soils where we may grow our own vegetables.”
Those living in the suburbs can supply some of their own food, whilst being aware of the possibility that the soil in their backyards is contaminated by lead for one reason or another. Smith ends on an uplifting note: “Undoing the globalisation years with an effective return to an efficient, localised food production system is a clear and present imperative. If ever you needed a better reason to get back to the garden, this is it. Just be sure the soil isn’t suffering from past follies, so that you don’t create more.”
So, start digging, and, if you’re lucky to have a local hardware shop (mine is about to close after more than 30 years, to be inevitably replaced by damned units, and more cars on the road - do I sound bitter?); if you have a local hardware shop, I say, support it. Diversity. It’s one of the elements of sustainability.
Finally, in case you haven’t quit smoking yet or, if you need ammunition to convince health departments to include lead information in their anti-smoking campaigns, check out the following conclusion [and graphic] of one of our most expansive and wide-ranging researchers, Robert Taylor, from his next fact sheet – our 65th fact sheet:
“In summary tobacco smoking has clear impacts on cancer risk, cardiovascular problems and neurocognitive development. Lead plays a clear and major role in cardiovascular problems and less easy to quantify role in neurocognitive or behavioral problems, partially because these can cover such a wide range. It plays a definite though probably not decisive role in smoking-related carcinogenesis, predominantly through the radiation released by the radioactive lead in cigarettes (Pb-210) as it decays to Polonium within the lung. Tobacco smoking increases lead toxicity both by the absorption of lead through the lung and by accelerating the release of lead from the bones. It restricts the body’s reaction to lead toxicity by restricting the availability of key vitamins. The overall effect of smoking is to increase both the body’s lead burden and exacerbate lead’s impact.”
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Updated 23 January 2012