NHMRC considering lowering acceptable blood lead levels in children.

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June 9, 2012

The Australian National Health and Medical research Council is under pressure to revise the level at which Australian children are considered to have too much lead in their blood. At the recent Eliminating Childhood Lead Toxicity in Australia forum held at Macquarie University in Sydney experts from Australia and overseas called for the NHMRC to follow the example set by the American Centres for Disease Control which in May this year replaced its recommended “level of concern” of 10 ug/dL (0.48 umol/L) with a “reference value” of 5 ug/dL (0.24 umol/L).

This change is on response to accumulating new evidence that there are measurable effects of lead levels lower than 10 ug/dL on children’s intellectual development and behaviour. Of particular concern in Australia is the fact that in towns with lead smelting industries such as Port Pirie, Broken Hill and Mt. Isa, a proportion of school-age children have lead levels higher than 5 ug/dL and some still have levels higher than 10 ug/dL. Other sources of children’s lead exposure in Australia are paint in old houses, especially during renovations and contaminated soil and dust.

A spokesperson for the NHMRC stated that the matter is currently under consideration by the NHMRC’s lead working committee.

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