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Lead testing rates are on the rise

Wednesday, 18th April, 2012

LEAD TEST: Fourteen-month-old Cleo Williams with mother Mel Mayne and health education officer Angela Tiziani. LEAD TEST: Fourteen-month-old Cleo Williams with mother Mel Mayne and health education officer Angela Tiziani.

The number of children having lead tests is on the rise but it could be higher, according to the Child and Family Health Centre. 

Child and Family Health Centre Manager, Dianne Johnson, said participation rates had risen greatly over the past year with 58 per cent of children aged from one to four tested. 

Ms Johnson said that in 2010 the number was 41.3 per cent.

“We aligned lead testing with child immunisations, increased media coverage and started sending SMSs,” she said.

“Getting lead tests now appears to be well accepted.”

She said if a child was found to have a blood lead level over the recommended 10 microgram per decilitre (ug/dl) guideline, a health education officer will provide advice on how to reduce the child’s exposure to lead.

“They will visit the home to get an idea where the exposure comes from and provide advice like encouraging children to wash their hands before eating, and wet wipe dusting instead of feather dusting,” Ms Johnson said.

Now blood lead levels in BH children aged under five remain below the level of concern for the majority of those tested, according to the annual blood lead trends report from the Far West Local Health District.

It reported that in 2011, 98 per cent of infants under 12 month olds were below the 10 microgram, with an average of 3.5 ug/dl.

For children one to four the average was 4.9 ug/dl, with 87 per cent of children tested below 10 ug/dl. 

The average for Aboriginal children 1-4 years was higher (6.5 ug/dl) with 74 per cent recording lead levels below 10 ug/dl. 

Ms Johnson said the centre worked closely with Maari Ma Health to treat Indigenous children.

“If we find that a child has a high reading, we begin to co-case manage it,” she said.

Ms Johnson said the Child and Family Health Centre also provided basic education to the community.

“We have health promotion displays around at the Plaza and preschools and we do talks with other clinicians,” she said.

Ms Johnson said despite the improvement it was still important that all children up to five years of age have their blood lead levels tested.

“To be confident that Broken Hill children’s lead levels are below the current level of concern all eligible children need to be tested.

“A blood lead test involves a simple finger prick test with results available at the time of testing.”

Testing is free and available at the Child & Family Health Centre and Maari Ma Primary Health. The Child & Family Health Centre can be contacted on 8082 6111 and Maari Ma Primary Health on 8082 9777

The report is available on the Far West Local Health District website at www.fwlhd.health.nsw.gov.au

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