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Lead testing in children of Mt Isa

Queensland Health will start the blood testing in children of Mt Isa today to determine the level of lead absorbed, due to the concerns over emissions from Xstrata's two Mount Isa smelters.//

In June, Queensland's Environmental Protection Agency raised concerns about the need for health checks in children of Mt Isa. Blood sample will be collected from 400 children aged 1-4.

John Piispanen from the Tropical Population Health Unit says, "The testing is precautionary because of Mount Isa's mining industry and its location in a mineralised area. We need to find out what we'd consider a background level in the population to see whether that's a risk to the population."

Parents’ consent will be got by the officials at hospital and childcare centres for children to participate in the testing. "Children aged one to four are more sensitive indicators of environmental lead contamination so we've targeted those," he said.

Under World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, less than 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood-lead level is considered harmless.
"Children with lead levels at or more than that will be seen by their family doctor, a pediatrician or the TPHU, " Mr Piispanen said. "An environmental health officer will also offer an environmental audit to determine where the child was exposed to lead and to minimise future risks, " he added.

High levels of lead were observed in one-third of the city’s children when the test was done 12 years ago.

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