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Children's lead level reminder

Thursday, 3rd June, 2010

*Health education officer Angela Tiziani conducts a capillary test on four-year-old Jordan Baker while mum, Allison, watches on. *Health education officer Angela Tiziani conducts a capillary test on four-year-old Jordan Baker while mum, Allison, watches on.

A jump in the lead levels of children in Port Pirie has prompted
health officials to remind local parents to get their kids tested.
While the official blood lead levels (BLL) for children in Broken Hill show that about 80 per cent are in the safe range, the Child
and Family Health Centre want more children to be tested.
“It is a voluntary program
and it’s free,” manager
Dianne Johnson said.
“Our aim is to get all
children to get an annual
lead test from seven
months (to) four years
The South Australian
government said it was
concerned by a report
released yesterday that
showed a 12 per cent
increase in Port Pirie children
aged between zero
and four years who have
above recommended BLL.
SA Health Minister
John Hill said in the first
quarter of 2010 the percentage
of children in
that age group with a
BLL lower than the World
Health Organisation’s
official level of concern
of 10 5g/dL (micrograms
per decilitre) was 56.6 per
cent. That was down from
68.5 per cent in the corresponding
quarter of 2009.
But Ms Johnson said
kids in Broken Hill would
never have that amount
of lead contamination as
the city does not have a
“Port Pirie has a smelter
so the children’s exposure
to lead is in a different
way - it’s airborne,” Ms
Johnson said.
“We won’t have the
same level because we
don’t have a smelter (and)
the smelter is the issue.”
The latest figures for
Broken Hill, data taken
from 2008, show a steady
decrease in the number of
children being tested since
the mid-1990s but that
also corresponded with a
steady decrease in BLL.
In 2008, 108 children
under the age of 12 months
were screened with 99.1
per cent in the safe level,
with a mean BLL of 3.2
The 2007 results showed
that 122 babies were
screened with a mean lead
level of 3.5 g/dL.
Meanwhile 361 children
between one and four
years of age were screened
in 2008 with a mean BLL
of 4.9g/dL, down from
5.8g/dL in 2007 when 458
were screened.
Ms Johnson said the
decrease was probably
attributable to parents
becoming complacent,
believing that lead was not
a major concern, despite it
effecting the child’s brain.
“We’re not sure people
actually see lead as a big
issue,” she said.
“The baby gets a good
result and the (parents)
don’t think they have to
She said newcomers
to the city may also not
be aware of lead health
issues.Ms Johnson said in
October 2008 a new lead
test was introduced and
children now only needed
a finger prick with results
available instantly.
“That really helped us
because we increased the
number of babies we were
getting by 60 per cent.”
Ms Johnson said if children
did have a higher than
desired lead level then the
centre would assess their
living environment.
“We talk with the family
about ways to minimise
lead exposure,” she said.
“Diet is very important
for children and their
uptake of lead (and we recommend)
a normal health
environment of five (vegetables)
and two (fruits)
per day.”
Children can have a free
test on Monday from 10-
1pm and Tuesday 1.30pm
to 4.15pm by appointment
at the Child and Family
Health Centre.

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