Pioneer resident slams Health Department over lack of lead testing

Tim Slade 2
Pioneer resident Tim Slade.

The Department of Health and Human Services should have tested Pioneer residents’ blood for lead, resident and advocate for the town Tim Slade said.

In 2012, lead was discovered in the drinking water at Pioneer and other towns in the North-East. A 2015 study found the water at Pioneer contained up to 22 times more lead than is considered safe to drink in Australia.

TasWater issued residents with rainwater tanks, but this year, it was discovered at least 12 tanks also contained unsafe quantities of lead, due to lead leaching from roofs, downpipes, and guttering.

In the November 15 print edition of The Examiner, director of public health Dr Mark Veitch said, ‘Public Health Services has never been notified of any person in Pioneer having returned a test showing elevated levels of lead in their blood,” and, “Pathology laboratories are required to notify the director of public health of the results of tests of anyone with elevated blood lead levels”.

But Mr Slade said since lead only stays in the blood for 30 – 60 days after consumption, but can cause adverse health impacts long after, DHHS should have tested residents immediately. He also believes it should be compulsorily testing residents recently found to be drinking lead-contaminated water.

“DHHS did not suggest blood tests to the 12 lead-affected households,” he said.

“It is DHHS’ job to actively do so. It is not the responsibility of the resident to understand the risk and initiate this themselves. DHHS should actively suggest this to residents.

“The three-month window on blood tests is critical, so DHHS, by letting this slide, have jeopardised accurate blood tests. It cannot be for the resident to have a working knowledge of the science of lead. It is the responsibility of DHHS and TasWater.”

A PHS spokesperson said, “There were no grounds for testing residents in 2012 as water testing found levels were only marginally outside the guideline and measures to prevent consumption of this water were taken by the public water authority, on the advice of the then director of public health.

“Then, as now, appropriate advice is for any person with any health concern to see their GP so they can be properly assessed and have appropriate testing.

“We advise any Tasmanian who relies on collecting rainwater for their drinking water supply to ensure their tank, roof, guttering and downpipes are well maintained and clean.”

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