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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Birds fell out of the sky as a whole town was poisoned by lead dust (Western Australia)

Birds fell out of the sky as a whole town was poisoned by lead dust - Independent


"There was lead in the air, lead in the drinking water, and lead in the sea. And when health officials finally admitted that there might cause for concern and began testing the population, they found lead in their blood.

Out of 900 people tested, 12 - including two young children - had higher levels than those deemed acceptable by the World Health Organisation. Lead is a particular hazard for small children and pregnant women.

The West Australian government has now ordered an inquiry. The port authority has halted exports of lead carbonate, and the mine, Magellan Metals, has suspended operations. Residents have been warned not to drink water from their tanks and to avoid eating fish, shellfish or crustaceans caught locally.

But residents fear that their long-term health has been damaged and they are furious with local authorities for playing down the risks. It was December when the birds began to die. Only in the past fortnight has the situation been treated with due seriousness.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the port authority did not report two "spikes" in lead dust emission levels, recorded in February and May last year.

Graham Jacobs, a GP and local politician, said: "I think it is appalling. Lead is a serious heavy metal pollutant, and it has enormous implications for the vulnerable people, particularly, in our community.""