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Tasmanian Public Health Director has All Power but has taken No Responsibility

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"The Tasmanian response to proven excess levels of lead in children's blood is now emerging as the most appalling response of any state in Australia," says Elizabeth O'Brien of The LEAD Group.

What did the Tasmanian Public Health Director do when he was notified in December 1997 that nine West Coast Tasmanian children were lead poisoned? ANSWER: Apparently, nothing.

What was the Director required by law to do? ANSWER: Notify the Council of the lead poisonings and inform the council of the threat to public health as a consequence of the lead poisonings.

When was the West Coast Council notified by the Department? ANSWER: In May 2000, after Councillor Gerrity had raised the lead poisoning issue due to his concern that the Council may have to review its recent decision to approve a dwelling to be built on possibly lead-contaminated land.

"This "notification" of the Council occurred after each of these nine children had possibly spent two and a half years with no government assistance to prevent further lead poisoning, after their brothers and sisters and playmates had possibly been lead poisoned and all the other young children just born or spending their vital developmental years in the area were lead poisoned" says O'Brien.

What was the Director empowered by legislation to do? ANSWER: The Director may declare that there is an outbreak of lead poisoning in an area and carry out any investigation into any lead poisoning and then give any directions to any person, and may require:-

  • any at-risk person to see a doctor [for blood lead testing] as soon as practicable or be fined

  • any of [the parents] of the nine children to submit to further testing or counselling or be fined

  • any person, agency or public authority to:-

  • notify the Director, of lead in any water or food or be fined

  • take any specified action to prevent further lead poisonings or be fined

  • to dispose of any lead contaminated substance in accordance with relevant guidelines

  • doctors to give any lead poisoned or at-risk patient, specified information about causes and prevention of lead poisoning and arrange counselling for the patient or be fined (unless the doctor can prove that the relevant information had already been given by another doctor).

The LEAD Group has called on the Director of Public Health to immediately declare a lead poisoning outbreak in Queenstown where 6% of children in 1997 had a notified blood lead level, to produce education packages specific to West Coast Tasmania and to use his powers to eliminate lead poisoning in Tasmania.

Contact: Elizabeth O'Brien, National Coordinator, The LEAD Group: (02) 9716 0014 ###

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Last Updated 27 March 2012
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