before tlap

Working continuously to lower blood lead levels

The Targeted Lead Abatement Program (TLAP)

TLAP was developed to assess current and potential future community lead exposure reduction strategies and progress those 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 entire operational budget for the Environmental Health Program. The TLAP program commenced in 2014.

The Lead Issue In Port Pirie

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.

As part of the lead 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.

You can contact the Port Pirie Environmental Health Centre for more information.

Why is lead in young children such an issue?

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 that of an adult.

How does lead get into the blood?

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.

Who is most at risk?

Children under five years, pregnant women and unborn children are particularly vulnerable. The effects of lead are the same whether it enters the body by breathing or swallowing.

Children can be exposed during pregnancy and tend to spend much of their awake time in areas that can easily be contaminated such as floors and soil. If adults and children swallow the same amount of lead, about five times more is absorbed into the body by children.

Children are more susceptible to the effects of lead than adults because:

  • their brains are still growing and developing
  • they swallow, absorb and retain more lead in their body

Find out more here from SA Health

How children are exposed to lead?

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, in Port Pirie 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.

Woman sitting on a swing with her child on her lap

Who do I go to for help and more information?

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

before tlap

By the end of 2010, an astonishing 72.1 per cent of children in Port Pirie had blood lead levels below 10 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood.

By the end of 2010, an astonishing 72.1 per cent of children in Port Pirie had blood lead levels below 10 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood.

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 screening started soon after that.

Working continuously to lower blood lead levels

Since the launch of tenby10, the capital invested by Nyrstar, one of the original stakeholders, along with S A Health, the SA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and the Port Pirie Regional Council, has been in excess of $46 million.

2014 to Present

Since 2014 blood lead levels have plateaued. This is a relatively positive situation because over that time the emissions profile of the Smelter has been trending higher as Nyrstar work through the commissioning of the new technology and work towards switching off infrastructure which will be redundant. When the anticipated full commissioning occurs in late 2019 lead emissions will start to decrease. A further gradual decline in children’s blood lead levels are anticipated from that point in time.


Through an ongoing commitment by all key stakeholders, including the community itself, children’s blood lead levels continued to improve under Ten for them. Latest results show that 75 per cent of the children tested have levels below 10 micrograms per decilitre of blood – the lowest figure in the past ten years.


Although falling short of the ambitious target of 95 per cent of young children being under ten by the end of 2010, 72 per cent were below the tenby10 target.


The overall lead-in-air monitoring at the boundary of the smelter site was recorded as being 50 per cent lower than three years ago.


The smelter’s contractors and employees recorded the lowest blood lead levels ever, dropping to (figures to be supplied). Plus, there was a 10 per cent improvement in children’s blood lead levels, the greatest improvement rate ever recorded in a year.


When tenby10 started, less than 50 per cent of Port Pirie’s young children met the blood lead level target proposed by the new project.

living here

Living in Port Pirie can be like living in just about any other regional city in Australia – only better!


How to carry out renovations while avoiding exposing you and your family to lead dust exposure.

greening the garden

Making your garden beautiful, and knowing that by using bark chips, lawn or even gravel to minimise exposure, you have done everything possible to make it lead safe for your children.

expectant mothers

Protecting unborn children and giving them the best start in life is easy: just have your own blood tested during pregnancy.