Lead poses risk to chil­dren’s IQ

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today -

LEAD ex­po­sure at any level can have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on a child’s IQ and there’s no room for com­pla­cency, a Bris­bane health pro­fes­sor warns.

O n T h u r s d a y , Q u e e n s l a n d Health re­leased its Mount Isa Com­mu­nity Lead Screen­ing Pro­gram 2010 re­port which claimed ‘‘ sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment’’ in low­er­ing the lead lev­els of chil­dren in the Queens­land min­ing town.

The study ex­am­ined the lead lev­els of 167 Mount Isa chil­dren aged be­tween one and four and found 4.8 per cent had el­e­vated l e a d l e v e l s a t o r a b o v e 1 0 mi­cro­grams per de­cil­itre.

Queens­land Health claimed the re­sults were an im­prove­ment.

A 2006-2007 study un­cov­ered that 11.3 per cent of 400 chil­dren tested, had lead lev­els at or above 10 mi­cro­grams per de­cil­itre.

Queens­land Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tute ( QCMRI) Pro­fes­sor Peter Sly was con­cerned the re­port’s claim of an im­prove­ment in low­er­ing lead lev­els in chil­dren would lead to com­mu­nity com­pla­cency.

‘‘ There is in­creas­ing ev­i­dence there is no such thing as a safe blood lead level for chil­dren,’’ Prof Sly said.

‘‘ Yes the in­ter­na­tional stan­dard with the WHO ( World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion) is 10 mi­cro­grams per de­cil­itre but there is a lot of ev­i­dence now to show that is too high.’’

He said five per cent of chil­dren w i t h l e a d l e v e l s a b o v e 1 0 mi­cro­grams per de­cil­itre was too high and the av­er­age was still too high.

Prof Sly said blood lead lev­els be­low 10 mi­cro­grams per de­cil­itre could af­fect neu­ro­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment – IQ and be­hav­iour.

‘‘ Even blood lead lev­els of one are associated with de­creased IQ and are dan­ger­ous,’’ he said.

Prof Sly said Queens­land Health stud­ies were flawed be­cause par­tic­i­pants were not ran­domly se­lected.

‘‘ It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily tell you about the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion level . . . with self-se­lected pop­u­la­tions, you’ll get peo­ple who have an in­ter­est,’’ he said.

The lat­est Queens­land Health re­port comes as law firm Slater and Gor­don be­gins a $ 1 mil­lion com­pen­sa­tion claim against min­ing com­pany Xs­trata, the Mount Isa City Coun­cil and the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment.

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