LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 8 no 1, 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.

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By Patricia Parkinson, Editorial Board,
LEAD Action News

A very liquid edition for this LEAD Action News. Petrol and water are on the agenda, with some good news and some not-so-good news.

First the good news: the announcement by the Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Robert Hill of the national phase out of leaded petrol by the 1st January 2002. Not quite the breakthrough that it was presented to be, when you know that many countries are achieving this well ahead of Australia, including Japan (in 1980), the United States (1995), all European Union countries (1/1/2000) and some developing countries including China (1/1/2000).

Western Australia is to be commended for having phased out leaded petrol as of the 1st January 2000, and Queensland for implementing the phase-out ahead of schedule: by March 2001. Pity that the other Australian states have shown no sign of pre-empting the federal ban. They are, in fact, behind the petrol companies themselves: Shell and BP have already introduced lead replacement petrol. The story of how these companies have prepared for the phase out makes an interesting read. Whilst we applaud these initiatives, we need to emphasize that unleaded petrol does not mean safe petrol, and does not resolve the problems associated with the greenhouse gas and other oil related pollution. Take for example the current battle between BP and Greenpeace in relation to the construction of a Northstar new offshore oil platform in the Arctic Ocean, an area already badly affected by polar meltdown, a reminder of the hazards associated with petrol, leaded or unleaded. (see http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/)

As the United Nations Commission on Human Settlement (HABITAT) endorses a resolution to "expedite action plans for the removal of lead from gasoline and the control of other sources of lead exposure" – we strongly recommend that you download the full "Secret History of Lead" from the web. We preview this captivating story of greed and criminal suppression of information in our first story. It also constitutes an excellent reminder of the dangers of relying on industry self regulation for public health and safety.

Now for the bad news. Lead in drinking water is one of them. In our series "government scorecards", it has been an easy one to establish as - to our knowledge - none or perhaps one of the recommendations have been acted upon. We publish in this issue our new fact sheet on lead in drinking water, a not so well known source of excess lead intake for at least 600,000 Australians.

The other bad news is the decision by the NSW EPA to discontinue funding of The LEAD Group to run the Lead Advisory Service (NSW), from the end of November 2000. After the de-funding of its own Lead Reference Centre last December, one could have been forgiven for thinking that the need to provide a source of reliable and easily accessible information on lead was essential. Unfortunately, both the NSW Health and Environment ministers seem to be of the opinion that they have done enough on lead, and are satisfied to force the public to approach all relevant government departments in turn for answers to their lead problems. In public service jargon it is called "mainstreaming the lead issue". So much for a whole-of-government approach! In a few short months, if your neighbour's contractor starts sanding the paint off their house, you could find yourself having to call the Health Dept, Pollution Line, the council, WorkCover, and the Dept of Fair Trading to gain even a hazy understanding of what you can do to stop the sanding.

From the Federal Government, we have obtained a renewal of the level of funding previously received for a guaranteed two years. Unfortunately, it relates to a ridiculously modest allowance, to be used towards the costs associated with the distribution of Environment Australia publications on lead and for allowing states outside NSW access to our toll-free line.

We are pleased to report that the South Australian Minister for Health has acknowledged our service to callers from his state by granting a $5,000 allowance to The LEAD Group this financial year.

The problem is, without core funding for the Lead Advisory Service, it will be very difficult to continue the service as we know it. But we are resilient, and we are spending a lot of time and energy trying to secure alternative funding. In that endeavour, we need all the support we can get!

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Last Updated 03 November 2011
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