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The Wollongong lead study: An investigation of the blood lead levels of pre-school children and their relationship to soil lead levels

journal contribution
posted on 09.04.2019, 00:00 by ARM Young, EA Bryant, Hilary WinchesterHilary Winchester
The Wollongong Lead Study was undertaken in 1989–90 by the Pollution Task Force of Healthy Cities Illawarra and the Health Promotion Unit of the Illawarra Area Health Service. It was done in response to community concern in the Port Kembla area about the health effects of known high atmospheric lead levels, which result from the emissions from the Electrolytic Refining & Smelting Pty Ltd (now Southern Copper) smelter. It followed procedures similar to those used in the extensive and long-term studies of the consequences of emissions from the lead smelter at Port Pirie in South Australia and concentrated on the highest risk group identified by the Port Pirie work, namely very young children (mainly 1–3 years). This paper reports the aspects of the study related to soil-blood level relationships. Two areas were compared: a southern area near the smelter; and a northern area near Bellambi which was used as a control because it is not usually affected by air pollution from the industrial zone at Port Kembla. A total of 164 soil samples and 83 blood samples were collected from the southern area, together with 79 soil samples and 30 blood samples from the northern area. Soil lead levels were not high by world standards in either region. The southern area had greater levels than the northern area. While there was no apparent pattern in the northern area, soil lead levels rose significantly towards the smelter at Port Kembla. Blood lead levels were also higher in the southern area. Here they rose from the south towards the industrial area generally, rather than peaking near the smelter. In the northern area there was no pattern apparent. Soil levels were significantly correlated with blood levels (significance level >0.05) and explained 29 per cent of the variation in the blood data. Soil lead levels can be used, therefore, as a general indicator of likely high blood lead levels in young children. Seven children (8%) in the southern area and two children (7%) in the northern area had blood lead levels above the NH&MRC recommended level of concern (25 μg/dL). © 1992, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.






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External Author Affiliations

University of Wollongong; University of Newcastle

Era Eligible



Australian Geographer

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