LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News Volume 14 Number 1, October  2013, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor-in-Chief: Elizabeth O’Brien, Editorial Team: Hitesh Lohani, Anne Roberts and David Ratcliffe

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Funding for GLASS for FY 2014 from the Australian federal government

Editor’s note: Elizabeth O’Brien was advised by telephone on Friday 25th October, that a response to her emails (below), should be forthcoming from the Minister’s office sometime next week.

3rd October 2013

The Hon. Greg Hunt

Minister for the Environment

Dear Mr Hunt,

 Congratulations on your election and appointment as Minister for the Environment.

I am writing to request an urgent decision to fund the Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS) for the financial year 2013-2014.

When he took his position on 1st July 2013 as Environment Minister in the then Labor Government, the Hon. Mark Butler put off making the decision about the grant for GLASS for FY 2014.

On contacting Mr Butler’s office, we were told that the decision was being made and we would shortly hear from the department, though we haven’t. As a result of this unexplained lack of continuation of funding, there is literally only $24 left in our bank account, and energy and insurance bills are overdue, yet the department and its major publication on lead (“Lead Alert: The Six Step Guide To Painting Your Home”) continue to refer callers to our freecall service. We’re paying bills with kit income – our kits are listed in the Guide.

As a newly appointed Minister, there are of course many issues that need addressing, but I would argue that global management of Australian lead is a critical one to your portfolio. Australia exports more lead than any other country and owes a responsibility to the world that the heavy metal be used and managed responsibly and safely. The most effective stewardship role the Australian government has played to date in managing that lead both at home and abroad, has been the provision of annual grants to GLASS.

You have stated that you count your contribution to the development of an international initiative for the removal of land mines as your most important work. I count mine as my contribution to the global elimination of lead poisoning, and the global elimination of leaded petrol is my top priority. I founded GLASS in 1991 as a community service. It started local and went global to satisfy a wider need.

When the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull was Environment Minister, he approved a grant for GLASS in 2007 which allowed us to continue to provide lead information to Australians and the world. Following Mr Turnbull’s example, grants to GLASS have been as follows:

  • - $104,500 FOR PERIOD 11/6/08 UP TO 30/6/09
  • - $117,648.30 FOR 22/6/09 TO 30/6/10
  • - $110,000 FOR 18/6/10 TO 30/6/11
  • - $115,500 FOR 17/6/11 TO 30/6/12
  • - $115,500 FOR 14/6/12 TO 30/6/13.

Please see the attached information sheet, supporting the case for continued funding of GLASS, and possibly, an increase in funding.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O’Brien

Information sheet to accompany letter to The Hon Greg Hunt from The LEAD Group Inc.

Why is the management of lead still important, when all but a handful of countries have banned leaded petrol?

The legacy of leaded petrol

An American study estimates that 1 in 10 adults will die prematurely due to their past lead exposure, mainly from the lead they inhaled during the era of leaded petrol (1921 to the present). (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-12-27/news/0212270325_1_occupational-health-services-institute-ellen-silbergeld-dr-howard-hu )

Even the more conservative estimate of the global annual impacts of human lead poisoning from lead in vehicle fuels was found (by Hatfield and Tsai in a United Nations-commissioned report published in 2011) to be significant:

We are not talking about just past years, the above yearly losses are expected to continue for many years to come: premature deaths for the global ageing population (mainly from lead-induced heart attack and stroke), but also for children; because, until the lead fallout from leaded petrol has been properly managed, that is, vacuumed up from where it settles in building cavities, removed from soils and sediments, and recycled, it is still available to be ingested due to hand-to-mouth activity – the major pathway for childhood lead exposure (eg see http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/lead-threat-to-children-from-home-veggie-patches-20130906-2tan9.html ).

Other, continuing sources of lead exposure and lead contamination

Leaded paint and renovation, lead acid batteries and their recycling, ammunition and shooting, etc., and the thousand-and-one products which contain lead are possible sources of contamination.

The work of The LEAD Group in striving for a lead-safe world

The LEAD Group participates in every international forum involved in the elimination of lead hazards, for primary prevention of lead poisoning and lead contamination, but it’s not enough to only tell those 2.5 million people who know enough about lead to read our website www.lead.org.au ) or the 100,000 callers who have contacted us directly for advice on how to renovate lead-safely or work with lead. We also need to be proactive in convincing companies to make lead-free products to replace previously leaded products (such as jewellery, wheel weights, bullets, fishing sinkers), or to improve lead-safety for their staff, or to undertake training so they can take on lead removal work (such as paint removal or ceiling dust vacuuming).

GLASS is a one-stop shop or nexus for information and referrals about lead.

No single government agency, at any level, supplies all the answers that GLASS supplies to the public, and no organization is in a better position to also provide proactive education and awareness-raising activities.

In the USA, there are lead poisoning prevention sections in a range of government departments (environment / health / OHS / consumer products / housing) in every county, state and at the federal level, which provide lead information and assessment services and enforce lead regulations. In addition to this, certain occupations in America need lead licenses e.g., to undertake lead paint management or inspection services.

For the rest of the world, there is just GLASS to turn to.

GLASS responds to any enquiry about lead from anywhere in the world (to date we’ve received emails from over 150 countries), and provides passively-available information on our website (people from every country have read our website). We have created numerous egroups so that our enquirers can receive regular updates on their specific interest area, and can have discussions amongst themselves eg more than 500 parents of children with both lead poisoning and autism have joined our PAN (autism-lead) egroup have sent or received 1,566 (very informative and supportive) messages to each other.

By acting as a clearinghouse and regularly publishing and disseminating well-referenced and authoritative articles and fact sheets (in the last grant year alone, we sent out 133,481 copies of the 17,214 articles in our Library database – the world’s largest publically accessible data-based lead library), we are excellent at reacting to needs and problems as they arise but the Lead Safe World Project (LSWP) is the future direction – where we take our solutions out to the world. For this we need paid professional staff. I’ve sent your Department our LSWP proposal earlier. Would you like a copy?

Without continued funding we cannot survive in order to provide lead information and referral services to the people who look to us for help or advice.  We are the only organization to provide this kind of assistance at no charge no matter where the enquirer lives or works.

If the annual grant were to be doubled, we could truly be proactive, and make a name for Australia as the model of world’s best practice lead stewardship.

Elizabeth O’Brien

  • Manager, Global Lead Advice & Support Service (GLASS) run by The LEAD Group Inc. (environmental organization and health promotion charity)

  • President and Co-Founder, The LEAD Group Inc.

  • Winner of the United Nations Assoc'n of Australia (UNAA) World Environment Day (WED) Award for Outstanding Service to the Environment,

  • Partner, Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme)

  • Ally, Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint, of UNEP and WHO (World Health Organisation)

  • Member, UNEP Chemicals Lead and Cadmium Working Group

  • Secretary and Co-Founder, Australian Dust Removalists Association (ADRA) (the only building cavity dust removal contractors’ association in the world)

  • Moderator, Plumbism and Autism Network (PAN) egroup, and a dozen other lead egroups.

Second email from The LEAD Group to The Honourable Greg Hunt

From: The LEAD Group

Sent: Friday, October 18, 2013 5:05 PM

To: Minister Hunt

Subject: Fw: ATTN: The Honourable Greg Hunt - More reasons to decide yes on GLASS Grant

Dear Minister,

I feel compelled to let you know that you have been wrongly advised if you have been told that the previous Environment Minister decided not to fund The LEAD Group’s Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS). Despite numerous attempts to obtain a decision on our funding from the Minister’s office prior to the election, we were never advised of such a decision, and we were always advised that the decision was still being made.

So when the ABC published your response to my email below, it was shocking news to me, and I wonder if you were correctly quoted. The article by Sue White, “Lead advice group cut as poison concerns increase” at http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2013/10/14/3861664.htm (14 Oct 2013) states that: 

Environment Minister Greg Hunt says of GLASS's funding, "This was a decision made by the previous Government. Due to Labor's financial mismanagement, we are not in a position to overturn their decision."

No decision was made by the prevaricating former Minister so I appeal to you to finally make a decision and that it be a positive one.

Every day, people continue to call or email our information service because, they tell me:

  • - “I got your number from the DSEWPaC Lead Alert 6 Step Guide” or
  • - “I found you on www.environment.gov.au” or
  • - “I rang the Community Information Unit and they said to call you” or
  • - “Poisons Info said to call” or
  • - “Dulux said to call you the moment I asked about lead in paint” or
  • - “I’ve called you every time I’ve had a notified blood lead level to deal with and had to investigate the home environment and I know for a fact that even if I called 5 different government agencies, I wouldn’t get all the answers you always give me in one phonecall”
  • - “my Council said to call my state environment agency who said to call the federal Department of the Environment who said to call you” or
  • - “the CSIRO told me you were the expert to talk to”...

When it comes to lead, all roads lead to The LEAD Group’s information service, and have done for over 20 years.

Don’t think of our tiny grant as unaffordable, think of it as an investment in the future – our children’s future and the environment’s future.

The lead in the paint on 3.7 million homes in Australia hasn’t been removed magically once lead was no longer permitted to be added to new paint in 2010 – that’s done one lead poisoning/lead contamination case at a time – just look around your own suburb, at people dry sanding and heatgunning and demolishing (releasing leaded ceiling dust from the era of leaded petrol).

Lead, once it is put in a product and gets out there, must be managed for all time, until its collected and recycled into more easily-managed products like lead acid batteries – which only rarely happens with the lead from old paint and leaded dust.

You can’t run one education campaign in the 1990s and expect that people having their first baby in the 2010s will remember the lead-safety messages. Only this week, the umpteenth caller told me he’d never heard of lead in paint.

With people wanting to grow their own vegetables and poultry these days – lead contaminated soil is a real issue – yet there is no guidance whatsoever on the “safe” level of lead in soil to be used for these purposes, other than the recommendations The LEAD Group makes when we supply the results of laboratory testing with our LEAD Group test kits (which are listed as a reliable and accurate method for testing environmental samples in DSEWPaC’s only current lead publication, the Lead Alert 6 Step Guide).

When people follow the lead abatement recommendations we make, they ensure their family’s and pet’s lead safety. Every dollar spent on lead abatement returns many dollars worth of benefits. The hidden villain behind rampant crime, lower IQs, even rising ADHD? Pb(CH2CH3)4 [tetra ethyl lead (TEL)]  by Kevin Drum states: “Invest US$20bn annually in lead abatement and the return is US$210bn annually.” 

We’re asking you to invest $115,000 so everyone can receive the advice they need, from one totally reliable source.

I hope you will make a decision about our funding, with this fabulous return on investment in mind.

Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien
Manager, Global Lead Advice & Support Service (GLASS) run by The LEAD Group Inc.
PO Box 161 Summer Hill NSW 2130 Australia
Ph +61 2 9716 0132 Freecall 1800 626086

Change.org Petition for a NSW Firefighters’ Fund and proposal for blood lead testing for firies

From: Geoff Hearn

Sent: Friday, October 25, 2013 4:34 PM

To: The LEAD Group

Subject: Firefighters


The LEAD Group - There's a new petition taking off on Change.org, and we think you might be interested in signing it: 

 Barry O'Farrell [Premier of New South Wales, Australian state with the largest population and currently beset by numerous bushfires which have destroyed over 200 homes]: set up a support fund for our firefighters who've gone without to fight the fires 

 By Geoffrey Hearn 



WEBFORM WHEN SIGNING THE FUND FOR FIREFIGHTERS PETITION AT https://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/barry-o-farrell-set-up-a-support-fund-for-our-firefighters-who-ve-gone-without-to-fight-the-fires?alert_id=hQBpdFmTNp_cKqGHaTUda&utm_campaign=38603&utm_medium=email&utm_source=action_alert

I suggest the fund in part be used to offer firies free blood lead testing. It is a little known fact that the wood of trees can be leaded (depends on soil lead content) but should be obvious that lead paint abounds and wood on buildings burns easily so firies are certainly at risk of breathing lead fumes (which is associated with early death) while they're out saving lives and risking very early death.

Elizabeth O’Brien

The LEAD Group Inc 

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Last Updated 22 December 2013
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