|, 2000, 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.
Extracts of Lead Advisory Service Australia Reports for FY 2000 to Environment Australia
By Elizabeth O'Brien, Manager, Lead Advisory Service Australia
In June 1999, The LEAD Group was granted $15,000 out of the publications budget of the Air and Water Quality Section of Environment Australia, so a free-call number for the Lead Advisory Service Australia (LASA) could be given in the Section’s "Lead Alert: 6 Step Guide to Painting Your Home" booklet. These extracts are from the quarterly reports to Environment Australia on the interstate calls dealt with by LASA.
The volume of calls dealt with by LASA staff has drastically increased (by 35.8%) during a period when our total funding only increased by $15,000 (to 6.5% of the total funding) that is, the grant from Environment Australia (EA). Firstly, looking at the total calls from all states, here is a comparison of the twelve months that LASA has been funded by EA [July 1999 to June 2000] with the previous twelve months when LASA was only funded by NSW EPA [July 1998 to June 1999].
Secondly, the number and percentage of calls with callers in states and territories outside NSW has shown a general increase from the first quarter to the fourth quarter:
Number and Percentage of Calls with Callers in States Outside NSW
Government Contributions to Call Costs Compared to Lead Income
"Lead Income" is here defined as the tax for the lead used in petrol, introduced in 1994 as part of the agreements of the Lead Roundtable, and does not take into account the tax on lead concentrates, ingots or products exported by Australia. Total "Lead Income" between March 1994 and January 2000 was over $725 million - only the income for the most recent complete calendar year is considered here.
Notes to the above table:-
As 5,503 is the total number of calls for FY 1999-2000 and the total grant to LASA for that period was $230,000, one way of looking at this is that each call cost $41.80 of which the Federal Government's contribution was $2.72 per call for a total of $15,000 per annum or 6.5% of the total grant to LASA. The community cost of each lead poisoned child (ie for each 10m g/dL rise in lead in blood) is $10,280 in remedial education costs, health costs and lost earning potential. When compared to the call cost of LASA’s service, if only one of 246 calls results in preventing one child from exceeding the Australian goal, the service is cost effective. We estimate our service to be many times more effective than this.
* - This figure was obtained by comparing the Environment Australia contribution to LASA for FY 1999-2000 (to cover costs of calls), with the Federal Government's income from the price differential between unleaded petrol and leaded petrol - approximately 2c per litre - (called the "lead petrol excise") in calendar year 1999.
** - Data on leaded petrol volumes sold by state and the varying lead excise figures were obtained from Department of Industry, Science and Resources. The excise figures for NSW and ACT were obtained by taking the NSW lead petrol excise figure and splitting it according to population as separate data is not collected for NSW and ACT.
The split was 4.6% for ACT and 95.6% for NSW, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population data for the December Quarter 1999.
Conclusions about Equity of Contributions to LASA
From the above it can be concluded that only a tiny fraction (0.0171%) of the federal government's Lead Income for calendar year 1999 arising from an agreement of the Lead Roundtable meeting in 1993 has been given back to the community through Environment Australia's contribution to the Lead Advisory Service Australia during FY 1999-2000. Another important agreement from the Lead Roundtable was that:-
"… all Governments would work towards the development of a National Lead Abatement Strategy including appropriate strategies for remediation of areas with site-specific lead problems."
For FY 1999-2000, the only evidence remaining of a National Lead Abatement Strategy is the booklet ("Lead Alert - 6 Step Guide to Painting Your Home), the Australian Standards on Lead Paint Management, some funding of remediation and education programs in lead mining or smelter towns and LASA's funding. All other lead activities would appear to be funded by state or local governments [or initiated by petrol companies]. Whether the Lead Petrol Excise goes into general revenue and ends up going to the states for specific or general programs is not known to the present writer. It is clear that nowhere near the remaining lead income (after subtracting the LASA grant from EA (remainder is $87,918,131) or even after subtracting the NSW EPA grant as well (leaving $87,703,131)) is being spent on lead abatement nationally. Looking at the interstate equity issue, it can be seen that in FY 1999-2000, NSW taxpayers contributed $52,953 to interstate call costs. In addition to this, with only a 7% increase in LASA's annual budget (ie the $15,000 from EA), the staff handled an increase of 35.8% in the number of calls. The way that this was achieved was not only through increased efficiencies in database entering of calls to enable swift handling of send-out requests, but also by an enormous contribution by our dedicated staff in terms of labour donated to the cause of keeping the Lead Advisory Service functional. The total monetary value of donated staff time was $10,223 in the 4th quarter, bringing donated staff time for the financial year to $42,835. Adding non-staff volunteer time gives a total value for volunteer time given to LASA of nearly $49,000. Without this contribution from the community, the excellent level of service on lead-related matters delivered to the community by the Lead Advisory Service Australia would not be possible.
Complementing and enhancing government initiatives on lead
[The following are extracts from the 2nd Quarterly Report - written in January 2000]
On the first day of October 1999 CHOICE Magazine, prompted by information about lead core wick candles provided by a member of The LEAD Group’s Technical Advisory Board, published two articles about lead, one a general article, the other on candles. This brought the federal government’s ban on lead core wick candles to the attention of the well-informed buying public of Australia.
LASA would relish the opportunity to raise the issue of a leaded petrol phase-out with the 700 car clubs we have in our database already. If a media release or Q & A type factsheet on the issue was forthcoming from EA, it would be a simple matter for LAS to generate address labels and send the info out. Since the WA Government has phased out leaded petrol as of 1st January 2000, and Shell is preparing itself for the eventuality of supplying Lead Replacement Petrol in a number of other states, the promotion of lead petrol phase-out among car-club members would be a timely event that is well worth consideration by EA, Shell and BP [all of whom have published colour pamphlets on the lead petrol phase-out since the above statement was written in January 2000].
Also in the 2nd Quarter, the LASA Manager, Elizabeth O’Brien was chosen by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) representative on the Air Toxics Steering Group, to act as his proxy at the air toxics meeting in Canberra on 16th December 1999. [Elizabeth is now a member of the Steering Group].
[To comment on the Air Toxics draft State of Knowledge Report on Air Toxics and Indoor Air Quality, go to the air toxics section of the Environment Australia website www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/index.html]
Call Subjects of Interstate Calls
[Just as an example, here is the analysis of the subjects of interstate calls taken from the 3rd Quarterly report (January to March 2000). The figures relate to a total of 352 interstate calls.]
Over all the states and territories, the call subjects discussed with interstate clients were (in order):- lead poisoning (a subject in 182 calls, including support for the Lead Advisory Service Australia); other subjects (162 calls, including lead in water, demolition, legal issues, contaminated sites, the ban on lead shot in wetlands for duck-shooting in Victoria, etc), paint (79 calls), environmental testing/sampling (71 calls, eg the lack of availability of spot tests for checking lead in paint; an Australian Standard for lead assessments); consumer products (66 calls, eg candles with wicks that contain lead, the lack of availability of HEPA vacs); service referral (57 calls, including researching new referrals outside NSW); air (51 calls, including fireworks and support for a toxics info line)*; then, renovation; leaded petrol (phase-out); then, hobbies using lead, ceiling dust (as yet a less known issue than in NSW); lead workers; waste and lastly, lead poisoned pets.
* Note: the Priority Air Toxics Referral and Information Service Australia proposal was refused funding by Senator Hill in August 2000.
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