LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 1 no 1 Feb 1993   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.

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Compelling arguments showing the need for action on lead

by Cameron Plummer

Did you know that:

  • Lead is a potent toxin that affects virtually every system in the body.
  • Impaired cognitive development and abnormal behaviour in preschool and school children (hyperactivity, distractibility, impulsivity, disorganisation, non-persistence, inability to follow simple instructions and overall poor functioning) have been observed at blood lead levels below 25 g/dL (micrograms per decilitre). There is no obvious threshold below which no effects have been seen.
  • Detrimental effects of low blood lead levels ( 25 g/dL) in infancy on cognitive development are probably permanent.
  • The National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recognises that there are no benefits of human exposure to lead, and that all demonstrated effects of exposure are adverse. But their 'level of concern' remains at 25 g/dL
  • A national review of public exposure to lead has estimated there are 21,000 1-4-year-old Australian children who may have blood lead levels above 25 g/dL, and 446,000 who may have levels above 10 g/dL
  • Lead is still present in significant quantities today. Leaded petrol accounted for 64 % of petrol sales in 1991, resulting in thousands of tonnes of highly bio-available lead being released into the environment. The Hazardous Substances Branch of the NSW EPA believes the average lead content in inner Sydney soils is 600 mg/kg - double its level for further investigation.
  • Over 130 models of pre-1986 cars could run on unleaded petrol - if only their drivers knew!
  • Australia is the OECD country which allows the highest levels in petrol. Permissible levels of lead in Australian petrol are given in the table below. In areas where permissible levels are not set, the figure is what the petrol refiners purport to supply.


    NSW metropolitan O.4g/L
    NSW country 0.84
    Qld metropolitan 0.4
    Qld country 0.84
    NT 0.84
    SA 0.65
    WA 0.84*
    Tas 0.4
    ACT 0.4
    Vic 0.3
    * to be reduced to 0.4 by 1996

 Compare these with 0.15 g/L for most European countries and 0.026 g/L in North America. Any amount above 0.15 g/L is in excess of the vehicle's needs.

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