The total number of children screened has increased for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, according to the latest Lead Report by the Far West Local Health District.
The 2017 Lead Report reported 221 Aboriginal children screened in 2017, representing the highest number screened on record.
Health Protection Manager, Ms Priscilla Stanley, said whilst there was an increase in the total number of children screened overall, the proportion of Aboriginal children in all lead level categories above 5 ug/dL remain higher compared to non-Aboriginal children.
Significant outcomes in the 2017 annual lead health report were:
- 730 children were screened (an increase of 6% from 2016) which included 221 Aboriginal and 509 non-Aboriginal children.
- The 221 Aboriginal children tested represented an increase of 6.8% (from 207) and the highest number screened on record. The 509 non-Aboriginal children tested also represented an increase of 6.0% (from 480).
- The geometric lead mean level (age-sex standardized) for all children (1 to < 5 years) decreased slightly from 5.9 ug/dL in 2016 to 5.7 ug/dL in 2017.
- The mean result for Aboriginal children increased from 7.6 in 2016 to 8.7 ug/dL in 2017.
- The non-Aboriginal children mean result decreased from 5.2 in 2016 to 4.6 ug/dL in 2017.
In April 2016 the NSW Ministry of Health endorsed the revised National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for the notification of blood lead levels from 10 ug/dL to 5 ug/dL. The report uses the revised notification figures and reports on the proportion of children with blood lead levels under 5 ug/dL. The 2017 report found:
- The proportion children with blood lead levels below the notifiable level of 5.0 ug/dL increased slightly from 42% to 46% from 2016 to 2017.
- A large gap continues between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – 22% compared to 58% respectively.
The 2017 Lead Report outlines improvements in some areas and highlights the ongoing challenges in managing blood lead levels in children residing in Broken Hill, this includes:
- Ensuring all children continue to be screened and that screening data is collected and reported for all children, including Aboriginal children;
- Ensuring the community continues to engage in lead remediation activities;
- Ensuring that active research into effectiveness of strategies employed continues to direct the way the lead testing program is run, and
- Maintaining long term momentum in the community to support childhood screenings in the first five years of life once the NSW Government funded BH Environmental Lead Program finishes in 2020.
The release of the 2017 Lead Report is also a timely reminder to parents and carers that all children should continue to be tested annually until they are 5 years old.Blood lead testing is free and available at the Community Health Centre (2-4 Sulphide Street) and Maari Ma Primary Health. The Community Health Centre can be contacted on 8080 1100 and Maari Ma Primary Health on 8082 9777.
The Far West Local Health District Lead Report 2017 – Broken Hill Children less than 5 years old is available at www.fwlhd.health.nsw.gov.au
NSW Health provides a range of resources including factsheets, response protocols and DIY sources to address elevated blood lead levels at www.health.nsw.gov.au.