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MEDIA RELEASE Friday 14th July 2006 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lead Poisoned Citizens Kept in the Dark by WA Government

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LEAD Group member, A. Fraser Hobday has been pressuring the Western Australian government for several years to come clean on citizens occupationally lead poisoned who he believes were not informed of the severity of the disease and their need for urgent medical attention.

The real concern is not just the contraction of the disease, but the extremely high blood lead levels recorded in WA in past years. Levels as high as 268 g/dL (micrograms per decilitre) have been recorded in blood lead tests. (Levels of 120 g/dL have been known to kill a child; the national goal set in 1993 is for all Australians to be below 10 g/dL.)

Timely and appropriate medical treatment would have removed lead from their bodies and prevented permanent brain injury and damage to other organs.

Due to the WA Health Department’s practice at the time, of not informing the workers of the true nature of their high lead exposure and medical requirements, former workers now suffer debilitating and permanent injuries although some symptoms may be reversible if only they were contacted now.

Mr. Hobday discovered the true nature of his own poisoning after reading a newspaper article about the WA Health Department allegedly concealing other public lead issues. He believes that other workers now very likely require correct management for brain injury, central nervous system and other organ damage, depression, nutritional guidance, and counselling for personality changes and aggression.

Mr. Hobday contacted the WA Health Minister, Jim McGinty, and requested an investigation be undertaken to establish the number of workers affected, and also to locate affected citizens, so they and their physicians could be fully informed to manage their health accordingly.

The WA government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Dr. Margaret Stevens, has written a letter to Mr Hobday dated 23/6/06, concluding that "although there is ongoing research into the potential long-term health effects of high levels of lead exposure, there is no evidence to suggest that any specific health care intervention or preventive action by the exposed person will improve their health outcome. Contact with previously exposed people, in whatever industry, may just raise anxiety without being able to provide any proven benefit."

Mr. Hobday said, "Given that the results of lead poisoning at the levels in question usually result in severe permanent symptoms of the disease, loss of earning power, and serious decline of general physical and mental health, these former workers need all the help they can get. Yet the WA government says otherwise. It prefers the citizens not be informed, suffer in ignorance of the disease without correct medical treatment, and be denied access to medical costs and other claims to which they are entitled."

Elizabeth O’Brien, President of The LEAD Group in Sydney, said, "The Western Australian government’s stance is the antithesis of good medicine and public health policy. This demonstrates a requirement for national policy for follow up of toxic exposures. A recent Federal Senate Committee report on Workplace Exposure to Toxic Dusts highlighted the legal plight faced by affected workers in WA and recommended that all state and territory governments move to set up nationally consistent mechanisms for persons affected by workplace related exposure to toxic dusts. The report recommended that the New South Wales Dust Diseases Act 1942 be utilised as a model."

Elizabeth also stated "Mr Hobday is a good example of how access to information on lead poisoning and knowledge of his problem resulted in him seeking expert medical attention leading directly to life altering health benefits."

Contact: Elizabeth O’Brien, LEAD Group - (02) 9716 0014 or A. Fraser Hobday - 0411 358 428 ###

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Last Updated 27 March 2012
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