Lead poses risk to children’s IQ
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.