Blood lead levels in Isa children falling

SOME of Mount Isa’s infants will be over the mandatory blood lead notification level when it is halved to five micrograms a decilitre early next year.

But average blood lead levels have reduced in children less than five years since tests began in 2010.

If a child is higher than the notification level, doctors will consult with families and make environmental audits to determine the potential causes of lead exposure.

The current mandatory blood level notification is 10 micrograms which was reviewed after recommendations by Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young earlier this year.

The highest blood lead level tested at QML Mount Isa this year was 14.5. But in a secondary test, the child’s level was shown to be 9.5.

Ten of the 80 children tested at QML this year had a blood lead level over five micrograms.

Mount Isa Hospital has tested lead levels in infants since August.

Two of the 16 children up to September were over five micrograms, with the highest level being 5.4.

The average lead level of the 16 children was 2.6.

Health Department health protection executive director Associate Professor Sophie Dwyer said the proposed regulatory change to half the notification level was being drafted.

The focus of lead control in Australia was changing from small numbers of people with high exposure levels to larger numbers with lower levels.

“In a lead production environment like Mount Isa, that means changing emphasis,” she said.

Professor Dwyer said she was happy that routine screening for lead levels in children under five years was happening at Mount Isa Hospital.

“In this lead mining area, our new standard is that if a child has blood tests taken for another reason, they would normally be screened for lead as well, unless parents specifically request that their child not be tested,” Professor Dwyer said.

In 2010, QML Mount Isa tested 182 children, with the average blood lead level being 3.6.

The average blood lead level of 96 children tested in 2011 was 3.3.

In 2012 and 2013, the average blood lead level was 3.2.

QML tested 43 children in 2012 and 83 in 2013.

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