On Friday, Hunter New England Health completed three weeks of blood lead screening for children between the ages of six months and five years, and pregnant women living in Boolaroo, Speers Point and Argenton.
The survey results will now be carefully analysed and reviewed by experts.
Hunter New England Health Public Health Physician Dr Craig Dalton said the screening was offered to local children and pregnant women to facilitate a better understanding of blood lead levels in the area.
“Screening was open to the community and 81 individuals came through the clinic, including 73 children and 8 pregnant women,” said Dr Dalton.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) considers there is good evidence for adverse health impacts if a person has a blood lead level 10 µg/dl or greater, but now also recommends that at 5 µg/dl or greater, the source of lead exposure should be investigated.
“The levels returned by the 81 children and pregnant women screened were all below 5 µg/dl. In line with the NHMRC Position Statement on Lead and the screening protocols endorsed by the NSW Chief Health Officer’s Lead Reference Group, clinical follow up is not required for any of those screened over the past three weeks,” said Dr Dalton.
“A similar number of children were screened through this most recent program to those in the past and, with no participants’ blood lead levels above 5µg/dl being recorded in the current program, previous declines in blood lead levels have been sustained,” he said.
The EPA’s Lead Expert Working Group and Community Reference Group have been briefed on the initial results of the screening program and the data will now be reviewed by the NSW Chief Health Officer’s Lead Reference Group.
“Lead can cause long-term health impacts, especially for young children and unborn babies, leading to learning and attention problems, hearing loss, slowed growth and behavioural problems,” said Dr Dalton.
“While these results are reassuring, I’d encourage any families who have concerns about possible lead exposure in north Lake Macquarie to have their children tested. There will be a monthly clinic at Pathology North Warners Bay for finger prick testing or you can visit your GP who can conduct routine venous lead screening. You can also contact the Hunter New England Health Population Health Unit for advice,” he said.
Since the closure of the smelter, the major risk factor for lead exposure for children under five years of age across the district has been peeling lead paint or renovation works involving lead paint said Dr Dalton.
“We encourage parents to prevent exposure to deteriorating lead paint or old houses undergoing renovation and seek blood lead testing if their children have been exposed,” said Dr Dalton.