9th September 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The latest SA Health report into Port Pirie lead levels, released on 30 August, shows that in the first half of this year the average blood levels of Port Pirie children under five was 5.7 micrograms. For children tested on their second birthday, it was 7.8 micrograms, the highest reading in a decade. Experts have issued parents with a range of warnings, including to ensure their air-conditioners are cleaned, their windows and doors are properly sealed, children's toys and clothes are cleaned daily, clothes are not dried outside, and prams are not pushed into the wind.
My question to the Minister for Health is: given the risks associated with high lead levels, what is the government doing to ensure remissions from the smelter are lowered to limit the adverse outcomes to children, including respiratory illness and socio-behavioural problems?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:41): With all due respect to the honourable member, I am not the minister responsible for the EPA. The reduction strategies within the smelter are coordinated by him. I will say that this government is a government that is very determined to make sure we improve the governance of the Port Pirie blood lead levels program, particularly through the Targeted Lead Abatement Program.
Recently an independent review was undertaken, seeing that the leadership of that initiative has been strengthened. The lead minister is the Hon. Dan van Holst Pellekaan, Minister for Energy and Mining, in partnership with myself and Minister Speirs. The recent deterioration is concerning, and certainly the work being done with the smelter to reduce emissions is a key part of the long-term strategy.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:42): A supplementary: noting the minister's reply, what is he doing, as the Minister for Health, to satisfy himself that young people and children are not being placed at risk in Port Pirie as a result of this smelter?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:42): One thing is being part of a government that is proactive. I am proud of the fact that it was this government that did a thorough review of the Targeted Lead Abatement Program.
In relation to the program, the Port Pirie Environmental Health Centre, which is part of the health network, has implemented strategies to improve dust management in the community, including allocating additional caseworker resources, increased interventions offered to families with children at high risk of exposure, increased cleaning of public spaces in the community, and removing contaminated waste.
Through our environmental health centre, families of children at risk of elevated blood levels are given individual counselling, advocacy support and strategies to reduce their child's risk of exposure and absorption of lead. Interventions to reduce exposure are tailored for the specific lead sources in each situation. Some of the interventions that could be used include professional housecleaning, covering exposed yard soil, minor home repairs, assistance with access to healthy foods, offering subsidised childcare, and relocating families most affected to lower exposure locations.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:44): A further supplementary: will the minister be advocating to his colleagues, the Minister for Environment and Water and the Minister for Energy and Mining, to reduce the lead levels in the area, and is he advocating for more water to be available to reduce the proliferation of dust?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:44): This government, as I said, is taking a collaborative approach. The targeted lead abatement program is a multiportfolio response. We have certainly been discussing it a number of times, including recently as a result of the independent review, and all of the factors are balanced in consultation with my cabinet colleagues.