Port Pirie lead and zinc smelter operator Nyrstar was given 14 days on Tuesday 1st June to explain the increase in children’s lead levels in Port Pirie.

The South Australian Government has demanded that the Industrial operator, Nyrstar, explain statistics that only 56 per cent of children tested in Port Pirie have recorded safe levels in the first quarter of this year, compared to 68 per cent last year.

“The residents of Port Pirie shouldn’t have to choose between brain-damaged children and jobs. Nyrstar is a massive multi-national company. It can and must be made to operator its smelter cleanly”, said Greens MLC Mark Parnell.

Concerns have been raised by Elizabeth O’Brien President of The Lead Education and Abatement Design Group [LEAD] that lead emission being imposed on the Port Pirie community can lead to and increase high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. Lead replaces calcium and iron in the body depleting bones and brain and can also result in osteoporosis, heart attacks, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

The failure of the Port Pirie lead smelter operators over many years to limit harmful emissions is an absolute disgrace, said environmental lawyer, Mark Parnell.

“Despite some improvements over recent years, the latest data shows very little overall change since the “Ten by 10” lead reduction program commenced in 2005. In 2005, over half (55.1%) of kids tested exceeded WHO lead levels in their blood. In 2010 the figure is 43.4% – still a long way from the target of 5%”.

“Whilst the primary responsibility rests with Nyrstar, the State’s pollution watchdog, the EPA, needs to take decisive action and set binding pollution reduction conditions with severe penalties for non-compliance. If the company has already breached its pollution licence, then the EPA needs to come clean with the action it is taking to ensure compliance”, said Mr Parnell.

“The EPA needs to do much more than writing to Nyrstar “expressing extreme concern” about the rise in blood lead levels in Port Pirie children.”

Incentive for Nystar to reduce lead emissions into the suburbs include the Environment Protection Authority licence fees for the smelter which are calculated from the pollution load discharged into the environment. The reductions in metals emitted to air will result in lower licence fees.

“The State Government also needs to reaffirm the independence of the EPA in this matter and guarantee that it will not interfere in any tough decisions the EPA may have to make. In 2005, the State Government over-ruled the EPA over pollution standards for the OneSteel steel works in Whyalla. That decision completely under-mined the independence of the EPA and must never happen again”, concluded Mr Parnell.
Note: Before entering Parliament, Mark Parnell was the lawyer for the Whyalla Red Dust Action Group and commenced the State’s first civil enforcement action in Court to force OneSteel to reduce its pollution.

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About 14,000 Moroccan Tea Glasses distributed by Cost Plus Inc., of Oakland, California are being recalled due to risk of lead exposure, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) just announced.

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