Community blood lead survey with emphasis on preschool children following lead dust pollution in Esperance, Western Australia
Article first published online: 2 JAN 2012
© 2012 The Authors. ANZJPH © 2012 Public Health Association of Australia
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Volume 36, Issue 2, pages 171–175, April 2012
How to Cite
Rossi, E., McLaughlin, V., Joseph, J., Bulsara, M., Coleman, K., Douglas, C. and Robertson, A. (2012), Community blood lead survey with emphasis on preschool children following lead dust pollution in Esperance, Western Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 36: 171–175. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2011.00814.x
- Issue published online: 4 APR 2012
- Article first published online: 2 JAN 2012
- Submitted: March 2011 Revision requested: May 2011 Accepted: July 2011
- blood lead;
- lead poisoning;
- environmental pollution
Objective: To assess the impact of airborne lead dust on blood lead levels in residents of Esperance, a regional Western Australian town, with particular reference to preschool children.
Methods: Following identification of significant airborne lead contamination, residents were notified that a blood lead clinic was available to all, with testing of preschool children encouraged. About 40% (333 children) of the preschool group and about 20% of the remaining population were tested. The main measures were blood lead levels, prevalence of elevated results and comparisons to other Western Australian surveys.
Results: In preschoolers, 2.1% (seven children) had blood lead levels exceeding the current 10 μg/dL level of concern. This was not significantly different to two previous community-based surveys elsewhere in Western Australia. However, at a lower cut-off of 5 μg/dL, the prevalence of elevated lead levels was 24.6%, significantly higher than children tested in a previous Western Australian survey. The prevalence of blood lead levels of 10 μg/dL or greater in adults was 1.3% (26 adults), not significantly different from a previous Western Australian survey.
Conclusions: The prevalence of preschool children with blood lead levels exceeding the current level of concern was not significantly increased. However, the increased prevalence of children with lead levels at or above 5 μg/dL demonstrates exposure to lead dust pollution.
Implications: This episode of lead dust contamination highlights the need for strict adherence to environmental controls and effective monitoring processes to ensure the prevention of future events.