Port Pirie, South Australia (located 230km north of Adelaide) is the location of one of the world’s largest primary lead smelters and the third largest silver producer that has been in continuous operation since 1889. Over this time airborne lead-contaminated dust produced during smelting operations has been transported by wind and deposited throughout the city and in houses and on properties. This environmental contamination is an ongoing source of lead exposure for the community and exposes children in Port Pirie to unacceptable levels of lead.
The Port Pirie Lead Implementation Program aims to help reduce the amount of lead that children are absorbing to protect them from the harmful effects of lead in their contaminated environment.
The survey took samples from 353 sites from land including footpaths, nature strips and public parks. It was found that 20 per cent had lead concentrations higher than 600 parts per million which is the national Health Investigation Levels for public spaces - indicating these sites require further investigation which SA Health will assist local council with this work.
About the program
In response to this environmental lead contamination, the South Australian Government established the long-running Port Pirie Lead Implementation Program delivered by Country Health SA Local Health Network and the local Environmental Health Centre in March 1984.
The Lead Implementation Program is the key State government contribution to the overarching Targeted Lead Abatement Program (TLAP) established in 2014 to enhance the work already being done in the Port Pirie community to:
reduce lead exposure
identify new ways to further improve children’s blood lead levels.
TLAP is a joint program of the Port Pirie Smelter and the South Australian government. It is designed, in conjunction with a major Smelter Redevelopment project to:
upgrade smelter technology
achieve significant reductions in children’s blood lead levels
assist the local community in achieving an acceptable balance which safeguards the health of local residents
ensure the ongoing viability of the smelter and promotes the sustainability of Port Pirie
Port Pirie Lead Investigation Group
The Port Pirie Lead Investigation Group is based in Adelaide. This group works closely with the Environmental Health Centre to research and obtain evidence for the strategies and interventions provided by the Centre to Port Pirie families to help reduce the exposure of children to smelter pollutants including lead and sulphur dioxide. The group also monitors, evaluates and reports data collected in Port Pirie including population blood lead level trends, and soil lead levels. Assistance and advice is also provided more widely, to other South Australian Government agencies, the Port Pirie Regional Council, the Port Pirie smelter and other governments across Australia.
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