TLAP remains committed to improved health outcomes for Port Pirie children

 In TLAP

The Targeted Lead Abatement Program (TLAP) is at the mid-point of a 10-year program designed to work with the community to reduce children’s blood lead levels.

Over the past five years TLAP has worked steadily on several strategies to meet its objective. Primarily its focus has been on reducing lead exposure of children more effectively through early intervention strategies in children 0-4 years of age and by reducing and stabilising lead dust sources in the community.

At this point in time, given the more recent and continuing reduction in lead emissions from the Port Pirie Smelter, a review of the TLAP program will be undertaken to assist TLAP develop the strategies required to achieve its objectives in the remaining years of the program and post TLAP.

Impact of laboratory change on blood lead results and TLAP response

TLAP acknowledges that laboratory testing for blood lead in the Port Pirie community was changed in early 2019 to utilise the most up-to-date testing technology. While the uptick in the graph published in the latest SA Health results appears significant, TLAP notes that SA Health has cautioned against comparisons between past and current laboratory results and understands that this change of testing may have contributed to the upward trend in the results compared with previous years.

It is important for TLAP to understand the impact of the change of analytical techniques on blood lead results so that year-on-year comparisons are more accurately defined and TLAP is investigating this situation.

TLAP recognises that blood lead improvements will lag behind improvements in lead in air which is the experience from other lead smelters that have undergone similar transformations to that in Port Pirie. Despite lead emissions being at a record low, this outcome is not yet reflected in recent blood lead results most likely due to lead dust that remains in the community from high emissions in 2018 combined with extremely dry and dusty conditions.

TLAP remains alert to this situation and responded swiftly as it became apparent in 2019 by:

  • Increasing TLAP funding to the Environmental Health Centre to employ an additional case worker to assist families to take the actions that are required to reduce children’s blood lead levels. TLAP now funds 3 of the six caseworkers employed by the EHC, bolstering the capacity of the EHC to connect with families in the Port Pirie community. Following the commence of TLAP in 2014, investment in the Environmental Health Centre (EHC) has increased engagement from around 30% of Port Pirie children under four years of age to 85%.
  • Further intensification of dust suppression activities through more frequent cleaning of public spaces used by children. This includes an increase in the Clean Team’s schedule from 6 to 8 hours per day and the implementation of efficiencies to improve the delivery of this initiative.
  • Working collaboratively with the Port Pirie Regional Council to upgrade hand-washing facilities in public spaces frequented by children. Effective hand washing and drying is very important to reduce the hand-to-mouth exposure pathway.

While TLAP is pleased some improvements were achieved in 2019, TLAP is continuing to explore other initiatives that will assist to reduce the dust load in the community and expect to share more information about this with the community in the coming months. In particular TLAP will be seeking greater access to additional information that will assist develop a more targeted approach to families that have significantly elevated blood levels and is working with EHC to achieve this.

TLAP appreciates that dust management within houses is a very difficult task and thanks the families of Port Pirie for their ongoing efforts to help drive blood lead levels as low as possible.

 

Enquiries to [email protected]

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