TOXIC TRUTH: Funds to renew blood testing

Environment Minister Rob Stokes
Environment Minister Rob Stokes

 THE state government will spend more than $13million to rejuvenate the Broken Hill environment lead program to address elevated blood-lead levels in local children.

‘‘Natural deposition and lead mining have left a legacy of widespread lead contamination throughout Broken Hill and this issue has had a direct impact on the health of children in Broken Hill,’’ Environment Minister Rob Stokes said last week.

Many children who grew up in Boolaroo over the past four decades also suffered from elevated blood-lead levels as a result of emissions from the town’s former lead smelter. Blood-lead tests done on Boolaroo Public School students in 1991 found 84per cent of children had readings more than the national standard of 10micrograms per decilitre of blood.

A report presented to the state government by Mark Taylor, professor of environmental science at Macquarie University, had data on the nature and extent of environmental metal contamination and the risk of children being exposed to lead at playgrounds in Broken Hill. The study focused on playgrounds because these are readily accessible places where children interact with the outside environment.

Professor Taylor was also involved in a joint Newcastle Herald-Macquarie University investigation last year that revealed dangerously high levels of lead contamination are still present around the former Boolaroo smelter.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the new funding for Broken Hill would assist in the protection of the community’s most vulnerable members.