Toxic Truth: Poison’s legacy hangs heavy over adult lives

CHAD Hinds can run from Boolaroo but he can’t hide – the toxic legacy of his first 10 years in the town haunts him every day.

‘‘I can’t get it out of my head; it’s always this dark cloud. I’d rather go another way than have to drive through it,’’ he said.

His young body was poisoned, or as he puts it ‘‘leaded’’, by the double whammy of high lead emissions and contaminated soil that he and his mates played in.


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As a nine-year-old, he registered a blood lead level of 30 (the recommended level is 10 and expected to drop to less than five next year) when he was tested at Boolaroo Public School in 1991.

Though few made the connection at the time, his symptoms were obvious – his learning difficulties and behaviour problems as a child have since been directly linked to his exposure to lead.

LINGERING DAMAGE: Lyn Hinds and her son Chad in 1990.

LINGERING DAMAGE: Lyn Hinds and her son Chad in 1990.

‘‘We had no idea what was happening to us,’’ Mr Hinds, whose mother Lyn was a founding member of the No Lead Group, said.

‘‘A lot of kids around my age who grew up in the area are suffering from bi-polar and depression, all sorts of nasty stuff.’’

His teeth have also lost their protective enamel coating, a condition which his dentist suspects is the result of childhood lead exposure.

Now 32, he has had numerous run-ins with the law and difficulty finding and keeping a job. Although he can’t change what happened, he believes those whose lives were damaged by lead pollution should be financially compensated. 

‘‘You look at people who grew up here in those days and they have got nothing. They can’t succeed in anything,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve tried apprenticeships. I couldn’t finish my apprenticeship because I got no schooling. I reckon people [who were affected by lead pollution] should be compensated for what’s happened. It’s nasty.’’

 NOW: Chad in Boolaroo today. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

NOW: Chad in Boolaroo today. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Although he doesn’t live there any more he, like many others, is concerned about the disturbance of contaminants on the former smelter site.

He opinion of the town’s future is similarly bleak.

‘‘I wouldn’t want my kids growing up here. They will end up with all the nasty problems that I and other people have copped’’