Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Secrecy over Mount Isa children's lead levels

Mt Isa children still at risk for lead

AT least 12 children in Mount Isa still have dangerously high lead levels but the State Government is refusing to give details of the cases.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson was yesterday forced into a partial backdown by releasing test data - only a day after claiming the information could not be made public for legal reasons.

The State Government was still refusing to release case progress reports amid claims it was not being open and accountable with residents and was dragging its heels on the issue.

Several families have already begun legal action against the Government and Swiss mining giant Xstrata, which owns the town's mine, over allegations of negligence which resulted in lead poisoning among children.

A Queensland Health report in May found 45 children - about 11 per cent of those tested - had elevated blood lead levels.

It has also emerged five of another 36 children tested since June also had dangerously high levels.

New figures released in State Parliament yesterday by Mr Robertson showed only 22 of the original 45 children underwent re-testing in recent months.

Twelve still had levels higher than 10 micrograms/decilitre - the point where intellectual and behavioural problems could occur - while 10 had levels that were now below 10 micrograms.

Slater & Gordon lawyer Damian Scattini, who is acting on behalf of families engaged in a class action, yesterday said the results showed education such as glossy pamphlets was failing.

"The Minister should be releasing all the reports (even with names censored)," Mr Scattini said. "They promised they would be open and accountable. How many (children poisoned) is too many for this Government?"

Mr Robertson acknowledged the huge public interest but said the current legal action could not be compromised.

"Each of the families of the children with elevated lead levels has been given advice on methods to reduce their child's exposure to lead," Mr Robertson said. "Detailed environmental audits have been conducted on the households that have children with elevated lead levels."

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