TLAP was developed to assess current and potential future community lead exposure reduction strategies and assess which are likely to have the greatest impact on reducing children’s blood lead levels.
Nyrstar has committed up to AUD 3 million per annum for up to 10 years and a further AUD 5 million to accelerate the objectives of TLAP. The AUD 3 million is representative of Nyrstar previous financial commitments.
The South Australian Government will commit approximately AUD 1.5 million per annum for up to 10 years. The Program commenced in 2014.
There is no ‘safe’ level of lead exposure and exposure should be reduced or prevented to keep blood lead levels as low as possible. Children and pregnant women are at most risk from lead.
You can contact the Port Pirie Environmental Health Centre for more information.
As part of the production process, fine particles of lead dust can be created that, if transported off site by emissions, wind or people, can adversely affect the health of the local community, but especially younger children 0-4 years of age.
Exposure to lead begins before birth through the mother’s blood supply. Lead levels can increase rapidly in the first years of life, and usually peak at 18 months.
Blood lead levels of ten micrograms per decilitre can interfere with development, in particular that of the brain and the central nervous system. Infants and young children are affected more than adults as their bodies are not yet fully mature, and are developing very fast. On May 19 2015 The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released a Statement and Information Paper summarising the evidence on the effects of lead on human health.
The reason for this is that lead resembles calcium, and a child’s gastrointestinal tract needs to take up calcium at a greater rate than an adult’s.
In the main, lead enters the body after we’ve been in contact with lead dust, either via the mouth through ingestion, or by inhalation. This can then cause elevated blood lead levels.
Young children commonly absorb lead through hand to mouth activities, when they place a hand that has come into contact with lead dust either in or to their mouth.
Children under five years, pregnant women and unborn children are particularly vulnerable.
Port Pirie’s dust inevitably contains lead particles, most of which are outdoors, in the air and on the ground – the world where children learn and explore.
So a common way for youngsters to absorb lead, especially when they are outside, is through hand to mouth activities after they have come into contact with dust or dirt that contains traces of lead.
Because rainwater can also be a source of exposure, it should not be used for either drinking or cooking. And, contrary to popular opinion, boiling water does not reduce the lead contamination, it simply concentrates it.
Although much less common today, exposure can also occur through contact with lead-based paint – mainly found in older homes that were painted pre-1975. Exposure can occur if children swallow paint chips or breathe in dust that has been generated during renovations to those homes.
And, of course, those who work at the smelter can also carry lead particles off site – on their bodies, clothing and possessions – and these can ultimately end up in the home environment. This is why all employees shower before leaving the site and always leave their work clothing on site to be laundered.
The Port Pirie Environmental Health Centre (EHC) located at 117 Gertrude Street, Port Pirie, provides extensive services to the Port Pirie community to monitor and maintain blood lead levels to be as low as possible. Services include: blood lead testing, family support services, community lead education, advisory service, home visits to families to investigate lead sources in and around the home, referrals, loan equipment for cleaning and research and monitoring of lead sources and pathways of lead exposure to develop new and improved ways to reduce the risk of lead exposure in the community.
The Opening Hours of the centre are 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday.
Contact the Environmental Health Centre by telephone: (08) 8638 4100
TLAP is the continuation of the Ten for them and tenby10 projects which, through their unique partnership approach, made significant inroads into lowering children’s blood lead levels in the Port Pirie community. However, even prior to the launch of tenby10, there was a focus within the community to raise awareness about the risks of lead exposure and what needed to be done to lower children’s blood lead levels. In 1984 the Environmental Health Centre was set up, and the first blood screenings started soon after that.
Since the launch of tenby10, the capital invested by Nyrstar, one of the original stakeholders, along with SA Health, the SA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and the Port Pirie Regional Council, has been in excess of $46 million.