Hunter New England Local Health District will carry out blood level testing in children under five years of age from the North Lake Macquarie area in early next year as part of its ongoing monitoring of lead risk to children in the community.
As part of the initiative, blood lead testing will be offered to all children under five years of age in Boolaroo, Argenton and Speers Point.
Dr Craig Dalton, Public Health Physician with Hunter New England Health said testing will be undertaken to ascertain if children under five have elevated blood lead levels.
“Following the closure of the Pasminco Cockle Creek Smelter at North Lake Macquarie in 2003, blood lead levels declined dramatically. Our ongoing surveillance of blood lead levels in the community since the closure has not identified elevated blood lead levels in children in the area since 2009,” Dr Dalton said.
“We did an earlier survey of children’s blood lead levels in the area in (2005 and 2006) and found a pleasing decline in lead levels and we are hopeful that the new survey will provide evidence that this trend is continuing.”
“Planning for the new children’s blood lead survey is underway and it will be carried out in early 2015.
“In the meantime parents or carers in the testing area who wish to participate can contact Hunter New England Public Health Unit for advice on free blood lead testing prior to the blood lead survey in 2015.”
“In recent years the Local Health District has reminded local GPs that if they come across signs of elevated lead levels in children from the North Lake Macquarie area to do the appropriate testing.”
A number of lead awareness activities have been undertaken by Hunter New England Health for those residing in the North Lake Macquarie area in recent years. These initiatives include:
Annual letters to GPs reminding of the need to be vigilant for exposures or behaviours that could place young children at risk of elevated blood levels.
The distribution of the “Final Whistle” document, which contains personal narratives of local people living with lead and the ongoing issues. This was given to 1700 residents in 2010, 500 booklets were given to Lake Macquarie City Council and booklets were distributed to local libraries and schools. Copies are available at Lake Macquarie City Council
Lead Safe Blitz DVD - describes lead safe practices. Distributed to 1700 residents in 2006, with continued distribution by Lake Macquarie City Council and Pasminco Administrators. It is available under title “Lead Safe Blitz” on YouTube.
Hunter New England Public Health Unit can be contacted on 4924 6477.
More information is available at http://www.hnehealth.nsw.gov.au/hneph/environmental_health/lead_issues_including_north_lake_macquarie