Australian State To Investigate Heavy Metal Poisoning Reports

by Gopalan on  December 24, 2009 at 1:52 PM Environmental Health
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 Australian State To Investigate Heavy Metal Poisoning Reports
The Tasmanian health department is to re-open an investigation in to reports of heavy metal poisoning in Rosebery on the state's west coast.

Late last year a Government-hired toxicologist found no dangerous levels of heavy metals in blood tests or in soil and water samples.

Residents who fear they are sick from poisoning believed the findings were flawed.

The Director of Public Health Dr Roscoe Taylor will re-open the investigation, a decision prompted by new claims made by a local doctor who has treated many of the residents.

"The new evidence that we've received so far was verbal and it was an opinion that the cluster of symptoms that the group of residents had represented the features of heavy metal poisoning," Dr Taylor said.

"At this stage it's unclear to us whether any laboratory investigations were carried out by the doctor so we've requested all of the data that they hold in order to make an assessment of the basis of that report," he said.

MMG Rosebery, the mining firm at the centre of the controversy, also announced yesterday the company had commissioned an independent environmental sampling program.

"MMG has worked closely with government agencies and local residents over the past 12 months on this issue ... however, I believe it is important that, as a valued member of the Rosebery community, MMG takes appropriate steps to ensure we all fully understand the situation," an official said.

Soil, surface water and dust from company-owned properties, public places and private properties will be screened for a suite of metals, he said, and urged all Rosebery residents to be involved.

The announcement came after a meeting on Monday between lawyers, doctors, the company and the State Government.

Rosebery has a long history of mining and the area is known to have soil which contains elevated levels of lead and to a lesser extent some other metals, but community blood lead surveys over many years - including in the recent past - have not identified any problems due to excessive exposure in Rosebery residents, the state government asserted.

These surveys have included blood lead tests in children, who are generally the group we are most concerned about in relation to heavy metal exposure from environmental sources, Director of Public Health Dr.Taylor said.

"As a result of our site investigations we have previously advised West Coast Council that standard occupational health and safety measures would be adequate for the residents of Rosebery."

Dr Taylor said the standard precautionary advice to residents of Rosebery and other mining areas remains the same:

·        Frequently wash your own and your children's hands, especially after soil contact and before eating;

·        Regularly wash family pets and toys;

·        Try not to track dirt or mud into the house on shoes;

·        Try not to let pets track dirt or into the house;

·        Regularly wash or wet-mop floors, stairs, and window sills to reduce any dust that may have tracked indoors;

·        Vacuum walls, soft furnishings and carpets regularly and remember to place dust in the garbage not in the garden;

·        Wash fruit and vegetables (especially if home grown) before cooking and eating;

·        Discourage children from nail biting;

·        Place clean uncontaminated sand or soil in children's sand pits and play areas;

·        Do not drink rainwater or use in cooking or for making up baby formula;

·        Don't let pets drink any seepage/exposed groundwater; and

·        Maintain a healthy diet high in fruit, iron, calcium, and vitamin C.

Source: Medindia

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