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Media Release - For Immediate Release Thursday 21st October 1999

Safe Candles For Lead Poisoning Awareness Week?

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Environmental groups in the US and Australia warned the world today not to use toxic candles and made a plea that toxic candles should not be available in Australia and the rest of the world by the end of Lead Poisoning Awareness Week on 22nd October 1999 (tomorrow).

"Due to the severe risk of lead poisoning, candles with a metal core in the wick that contains lead have been banned in Australia since 1st September 1999 and an order banning their supply for sale was gazetted in NSW on 8th September 1999, and in Queensland and South Australia on 17th September 1999. The ACT and Tasmanian Ministers for consumer affairs announced their bans yesterday. This leaves NT, WA and Victoria yet to ban the candles.

Yet The LEAD Group has since 8th September in NSW purchased lead core wick candles in a range of stores including a quality homewares store, a major chain store and a bargain store" says Elizabeth O’Brien, National Coordinator of The LEAD Group. "While the Federal and NSW, SA, QLD, TAS and ACT Governments are to be applauded for banning lead core wick candles, other states remain to do so. A ban must be accompanied by policing, a recall and a public awareness campaign to assist candle-buyers to identify and not buy the toxic candles and to identify and stop using those candles already purchased. We know of a Catholic Cathedral that purchased box-loads of lead core wick candles before the ban – will they be used?" she asked. "We have asked the Pope for assistance in this matter but have not heard back as yet."

Cathy Flanders, an indoor air quality campaigner from Texas, has been motivated to begin a class action by the build-up of soot containing 40 times the acceptable lead level from scented lead core wick candles, that she noticed in her home in 1997. "The case has the potential of raising awareness of home-owners to a growing problem of soot deposition and damage from candle emissions. Candle soot is causing millions of dollars in damage to property."

"The LEAD Group calls on federal, state and territory fair trading ministers to ban AND recall all unsafe candles before people start stocking up on candles in case of blackouts from the Y2K bug. We call on the International Lead Management Centre and the World Trade Organisation to ensure that the manufacture and export of metal core wick candles and metal core wicks ceases and that all toxic candles are recalled. Our estimate of the possible number of lead core wick candles imported from China, the US and Taiwan into Australia in the last financial year alone is between 600,000 and 6 million candles. There is a lot of potential for lead poisoning in all those candles and we call on public health authorities to undertake blood lead testing campaigns for people who have been exposed to them", said Elizabeth O’Brien. "We’re still waiting for announcements from candle importers and suppliers that consumers will be able to get a refund for any lead core wick candles they have already purchased – we need to get these candles out of circulation to ensure they are never burnt. The wicks can be replaced in candles – so this is not necessarily going to create a massive stockpile of toxic waste."

The candles issue makes it even more vital that Health Departments across Australia actively encourage blood lead testing campaigns. If you haven’t had a blood lead test – you can’t know that you’re not lead poisoned!

Media contact: Elizabeth O’Brien ph (02) 9716 0966 ###

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