Action News Volume 7 No 4, 2000, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News (
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education
and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
for a National Strategy" in Reducing Lead Exposure in Australia - July 1993, Final
Report Vol 1 - Pages ES 7 To ES 20. Funded by National Health and Medical Research
Council. Published by Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, Commonwealth
of Australia, Canberra, 1994.
Recommendation 3 Lower the
limit for lead in petrol to 0.15 grams per litre. Refine costings for lowering to 0.026
grams/litre. Impose controls on benzene and other aromatics in petrol. Comment the limit
for lead in petrol is generally 0.2 g/L in Australia but because Shell Half Lead (0.1 g/L)
is sold in some states, these states actually average around 0.15 g/L in leaded petrol
sold. As of 1st January 2000, Western Australia is banning leaded petrol and Federal
Environment Minister, Senator Hill has asked all the other states when this is achievable
Australia-wide. The conclusion is by 1st January 2002. The allowable benzene
content in Australian petrol is still 5% though the federal government has plans for
Recommendation 4 Increase excise
on leaded petrol by at least two cents per litre, with the revenue earmarked for lead
abatement activities. Implement on-going information/education program targeted to
drivers, car mechanics. Comment the excise was increased to 2 cents in 1994
but the revenue, more than $725,000,000 collected as at February 2000, has never been
earmarked for lead abatement activities. The education campaign was brief funds
have dried up.
Recommendation 6 Identify housing
with high risk of lead paint exposure. Implement inspection program. Abate paint in high
risk houses. Develop training program for paint abatement workers. Develop methods for
disposal of wood painted with lead-based paint.
Comment risk factors have been
identified and incorporated into the education campaign but it is up to the individual to
identify that their own house is "high risk". No houses have been abated for
paint in government programs with the exception of state-funded smelter and mining town
remediation programs such as in NSW and SA. Federal and state government grants for
Heritage homes give no information or financial support for lead-safe renovation though
assistance is available to ensure that Heritage colours are used when repainting. Master
Painters Australia run training courses in some states, though in other states a
lead-aware painter is a rarity eg South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory
and Tasmania. Canberra Institute of Technology and CTI Consultants in Sydney run lead
paint management courses. CTI even offer courses interstate.
painted with lead-based paint is either burned as firewood or re-used or landfilled with
the paint still on it. I know of no plan in place to resolve this problem.
Undertake a program to rationalise the many and
varied regulations covering lead use in products. This effort should focus on regulations
that are now out-of date because of the revision of the NHMRC guidelines. Efforts should
also be made to identify and correct gaps in controls on lead sources and to rationalise
variations between State requirements, where appropriate. Comment has not happened.
Prohibit sale and use of lead shot, lead in
children's toys, paints and crayons, lead fishing weights, lead curtain weights and other
products in which lead can be readily replaced. Comment Victoria, Northern Territory and South
Australia have begun phasing out use of lead shot in wetlands or certain designated areas,
though of course lead shot is still on sale everywhere. The Australian toy standard (AS
1647.3) limits lead content in childrens paints and crayons, surface coatings and
other components of toys to 90 parts per million and there was a federal survey to ensure
compliance in 1999, but it was not published. Lead fishing weights and curtain weights
have not even been considered for banning yet though lead fishing weights and jigs are
definitely on the way out in the US.
Encourage fuel efficiency among drivers of
pre-1986 cars. Reductions in fuel use will reduce lead emissions from cars using leaded
fuel. Activities such as keeping the car tuned, removing roof racks when not needed, using
recommended tyre pressure, and smoother driving can reduce fuel use. This program would,
of course, also have wider air pollution and greenhouse benefits. Comment done, usually by state
environment departments and federal Dept of Primary Industries and Energy [now called Dept
of Industry, Science and Resources].
Evaluate sources of lead in food to determine why
lead intake from food is estimated to be 15 micrograms per week in Australia and only 5 to
8 micrograms in the United States. If the primary contributor is found not to be petrol
(which is separately addressed), identify and implement programs for reducing lead
who knows? People have questioned the estimate. Market basket surveys found that the
percentage of the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI) of lead from food for an
adult male fell from 34% in 1987 to 18% in 1990. However the PTWI stands at 50 µg/kg/week
(micrograms of lead per kilogram of body weight per week) and must be questioned - this
"tolerable intake" was determined when the "tolerable blood lead
level" was 2 1/2 or 3 times the current level of 10 µg/dL. By comparison, the US has
set a maximum intake allowable for children of 15 µg/day from consumer products. The
question of whether it is safe to have a fertiliser plant next door to every Australian
lead smelter and using sulphuric acid from the smelter to make the fertiliser, has never
been adequately answered. Also, since the ban on the duck season in NSW in 1995, hunters
(mainly from Victoria) have been free to use lead shot to kill ducks over ricefields in
Southern NSW - the ricebowl of Australia. The impact of this practice on the lead content
of rice (previously already one of the larger contributors to food lead intake of typical
Australian 2 year olds) has not been ascertained in published form. The question of lead
content of calcium supplements has been investigated in the US but apparently not in
Australia. Whether there is lead in dolomite or other nutritional supplements would only
be known if these items were adequately labelled, not just with the added ingredients but
also with the contaminants listed.
Develop information materials for people engaged
in hobbies involving lead that warn of the dangers to themselves and their families. Comment done by Environment
Australia (EA) and published in 1995. However, updates of the various factsheets have been
awaiting approval by EA since May 1999 and have not been released as of March 2000.
Examine availability and labelling of paint
containing lead. Determine if lower lead content is feasible. Determine if greater
restrictions, warnings and/or information programs are required to prevent use in domestic
not done publicly.
Develop mechanisms for notification of potential
purchasers by vendors of homes containing lead-based paint. Comment not done.
Examine the extent of current recycling programs
for products containing lead, such as batteries, television sets, electronic devices, and
others. Identify barriers and opportunities for recycling. Where appropriate, develop
programs for greater recycling of these products. Comment not done publicly. Compaq is currently
recycling the lead from computer monitors wherever they have convinced local councils and
large businesses to contact them to organise pick-up of large consignments. Individuals
and small businesses should contact their local council for information or to encourage
the council to organise Compaq pick-ups of significant quantities of monitors. Lead acid
battery recycling seems reasonably well organised for vehicle batteries through vehicle
service centres but there has been no survey and some evidence to say that other uses such
as in alarm systems, do not carry out systematic recycling of their lead acid batteries
through the service provider. Eg alarm maintenance companies leave the used battery for
the building occupier to dispose of and only some councils organise lead acid battery
pick-up and recycling.
Work with plastics industry to identify current
uses of lead additives and develop alternatives. Comment the plastics industry did their own plan but it got put on the
Examine cosmetics and hair dyes in Australia to
determine if they currently contain lead. If so, adopt appropriate regulations to
eliminate its use. Comment not
done publicly for cosmetics. Even if Australian made cosmetics contain no lead (as would
be expected) there still needs to be a survey of the cosmetics imported (usually privately
though sometimes for commercial sale) from countries such as India and Arabic areas where
leaded eye make-up and lip blackener are traditional. Claims that medicated nappy
rash creams and baby powders containing zinc (which is typically contaminated
with lead) also contain lead have not been adequately investigated in Australia. Leaded
hair colour restorers are usually labelled with their lead content and the appropriate
regulation, the Therapeutic Goods Act, is being reviewed in 2000.
Determine if traditional medicines containing lead
are in use in Australia. 'If so, working with the relevant community, develop information
materials and programs to warn of dangers and to discourage use. Comment not done publicly.
Examine the current status of sump oil recycling
programs and determine if efforts are needed to encourage further recycling.
Comment in March 1999, the sump oil recycling
industry was determined to be at grave risk of becoming financially non-viable if the
proposed tax system reduced the excise on diesel fuel. According to the federal Senate
Committee report, Inquiry into the GST and a New Tax System (March 1999) the
current low rate of recycling of sump oil in Australia about 28% - would be reduced
even further, perhaps to zero. The report predicted that between 390 and the total figure
of 540 million litres of oil annually, would not be collected for recycling and would
therefore be at risk of entering "soil, the water table and eventually waterways,
damaging terrestrial and marine vegetation and wildlife." The Committee recommended
that waste oil recycling "should attract appropriate government support." The
NSW EPA has informed me that the national oil recyclers industry association has written
guidelines for their members on waste classification and management but to date I have not
been able to obtain a copy. Of course, recycling is not the same as re-use and reports
received by the Lead Advisory Service several years ago that oil was being collected and
then used as fuel without any filtration or treatment to remove contaminants, have never
been adequately addressed.
IMPORTANT REQUEST TO READERS I have
written italicised comments after each component in the following government plans
regarding consumer products but I would love to hear from you if my comment is
wrong or incomplete and will be happy to print a retraction with the good news about what
has actually happened, in a later issue of LEAD Action News.