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State Government to address rising lead levels with $13m

Saturday, 14th February, 2015

UDRH Professor David Lyle was credited as the man behind the push for state government funding for a new lead abatement and education program. PICTURE: Erica Visser UDRH Professor David Lyle was credited as the man behind the push for state government funding for a new lead abatement and education program. PICTURE: Erica Visser

By Erica Visser

The state government has put more than $13 million towards addressing alarming lead levels in local children.

Minister for Western NSW, Kevin Humphries, made the latest in a string of pre-election announcements atop the Line of Lode yesterday.

It follows elevated concerns over lead contamination and a steady increase in the number of children with high lead levels since state Labor’s termination of a lead program in 2006.

The funding would be spread across five years towards rejuvenating the Broken Hill Environment Lead Program to focus on abatement and better educating the public.

The program will work with stakeholders including the Local Health District, BH Lead Reference Group, City Council and Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation. 

“Basically what we’re doing is retrofitting ... it’s also about making the community aware,” Mr Humphries said.

The minister said that many locals had become complacent about lead despite the worrying health effects and recent links with aggression and low IQ.

“It’s a bit like the smoker that’s been smoking two packets a day and suddenly realises that wasn’t a wise decision,” Mr Humphries said.

He said the program would build on achievements dating back to 1994 by building on research and monitoring to identify contamination processes, adopt modern abatement practices and spread awareness via campaigns.

The UDRH’s Professor David Lyle was acknowledged for leading the push for funding during a meeting with Mr Humphries at a local coffee shop nine months ago.

Prof. Lyle yesterday said that it had become clear that more needed to be done following evidence that there was no such thing as a safe lead level.

“We can lead the next phase of dealing with this unnecessary environmental hazard,” he said.

Mayor Wincen Cuy also braved the searing heat to speak on the announcement.

“This is a great announcement for Broken Hill ... $13 million is a huge commitment.

“This will go a long way towards the health of our youth.

“... The Broken Hill program has the ability to not only be rolled out nationally, but internationally. This is a huge commitment for our city.

“The issue of lead health and mitigation is an on-going challenge in Broken Hill and this funding will be crucial in supporting key groups in continuing programs and education that can assist families and others in reducing the impacts of lead on their lives.”

Mayor Cuy said the announcement of the hefty sum had come as a “complete surprise”, as he acknowledged the city had seen a lot of Mr Humphries in the lead-up to the state election.

“I’d wake up to these sorts of surprises every day of the week if we can,” he said.

In October, a Macquarie University report sparked fears when it the found that a metal-rich dust covering children’s playground was likely the result of current mining operations.

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