LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 8 no 3, 2001, 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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Worst Case Lead Poisoning and
Tasmanian Government Inaction (continued)

By Elizabeth O'Brien, Manager, Lead Advisory Service Australia
Edited by Paul Spencer, activist and roving volunteer

Local Council

On 16th May 2000, the Medical Officer wrote to West Coast Council's General Manager to suggest that rather than discuss the Menzies Centre survey at that day's council meeting, the Menzies Centre could supply a summary of the survey for Councillors to discuss at the June meeting. "Representatives of the Menzies Centre and the Public and Environmental Health Service will attend the [June] meeting to describe the survey as well as discuss follow-up action and answer questions."

That evening a motion moved by Cr Gerrity and seconded by Cr Stebbings, was passed at the West Coast Council meeting:-

  1. That Council instructs the General Manager to write to the Minister for Health, the Department of Health, the Mines Department and the Menzies Centre for Population Health Research, advising that there are concerns within the West Coast Community about the higher than average level of lead found in some children and requesting information on contaminated sites and on the testing for contamination of heavy metals throughout the West Coast area.

  2. That an invitation be extended to representatives of the Health Department and the Menzies Centre for Population Health Research to attend the next Council Meeting to better inform Councillors and the community about this issue.

The following day, Paul West, General Manager of West Coast Council wrote to the Mines Department, requesting information on lead contaminated sites located throughout the West Coast municipal area. Unfortunately, Mr West did not request "information on the testing for contamination of heavy metals throughout the West Coast area" as instructed by Council.

On the same day, Mr West also wrote to the Hon Judy Jackson, MHA, Minister for Health and Human Services, advising that there were concerns within the West Coast Community about the higher than average level of lead found in children. Unfortunately, Mr West did not request "information on contaminated sites and on the testing for contamination of heavy metals throughout the West Coast area" as instructed by Council.

Some four weeks later, Mr West wrote to Mr Jim Lockley, Senior Environment Officer, Environment and Planning Division, Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment, requesting information on lead contaminated sites located throughout the West Coast municipal area. Unfortunately, Mr West did not request "information on the testing for contamination of heavy metals throughout the West Coast area" as instructed by Council.

Dr Tony Brown, Executive Director, Mineral Resources Tasmania, responded to the letter from Paul West to the Mines Department with the following:-

"Thank you for your letter of 17 May regarding lead contaminated sites on the West Coast.

"Under the present Government structure all such issues as you raised in your letter are dealt with by Mr Jim Lockley, Senior Environment Officer, Environment and Planning Division of the Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment. Mr Lockley can be contacted on 1300 368 550."

Unfortunately, this letter was not filed by Paul West in the lead file at Council and he did not bring this response to the attention of the Council.

The 21st June 2000 West Coast Council meeting included discussion of a 2 page summary of the Menzies Centre Study and overheads entitled "Lead - Health Aspects; Sources in the Environment; What Can I Do?; Following on from the Menzies Study; and Further Information". At the meeting Denise received from Councillor Gerrity the orange pamphlet [this was the first time she had seen it] that the Menzies Centre claim to have sent out to all parents of children blood lead tested for the study.

The orange Lead Alert pamphlet is a two page general introduction to lead published in 1995, and it also does not mention the advisability of using HEPA vacuums, although the Commonwealth Lead Alert booklet published in 1999 does recommend them. Once carpet is contaminated with lead however, no amount of vacuuming will de-contaminate it and removal of the carpet is recommended.

The Lead Alert booklet states: "USE THE RIGHT TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT FOR THE JOB: A High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter fitted to a suitable commercial vacuum cleaner, while more effective than ordinary cleaners, is not particularly effective for removing lead dust from carpet. Only a HEPA filter can capture the small lead particles. Other filters and ordinary vacuum cleaners are dangerous because they allow lead dust out through their exhausts and spread it more widely." [page 11]

Denise borrowed an industrial steam cleaner from the High School and used it to clean all the carpets. She also followed advice given to vacuum frequently.

According to the Menzies study summary tabled at the Council meeting: "The fact that the mean blood lead in a non-lead mining community [Queenstown] was as high as the lead mining communities [Rosebery and Zeehan] suggest that it is not exposure to lead mining that is responsible for the elevated lead levels in Rosebery. Rather, it may be something associated more generally with mining or the lifestyle of the mining communities on the West Coast."

Lead and other heavy metal contamination of soils and dusts is associated with mining of lead, zinc and copper and the Medical Officer had taken soil [and possibly dust and water] samples in nearly all the homes of the 9 children with notifiable blood lead levels, yet this lead contamination data was not presented at the Council meeting, nor presented to Council in response to the letters written as a result of the May council meeting lead motion seeking information on soil heavy metal contamination from the Mines Department and health and environment authorities.

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