The latest lead report from the Far West Local Health District (FWLHD) has revealed 39 per cent (306) of local children between the ages of one and five years had blood lead levels (BLLs) above the notification level of ≥5 micrograms per decilitre (μg/dL) last year.
Despite this, the Broken Hill Lead Program’s 2022 report findings show population blood lead levels have plateaued in each age group or developmental stage with no significant change since 2012.
All newborns tested in 2022 had BLLs within the guidelines (<5 μg/dL).
Overall, 984 Broken Hill children ranging from newborns to under five years old took part in the Broken Hill Lead Program, which takes annual blood lead level screenings of all resident children under the age of five.
The voluntary testing is free of charge for parents and carers through the Broken Hill Child and Family Health Service and the Maari Ma Primary Health Care Service.
The program saw an increase in the number of children screened across two of the three age groups – newborns, six months to less than 12 months of age, and one year to less than five years – compared to considerable screening declines in 2021.
Some 201 Aboriginal children participated in the program, with little difference between the rate for Aboriginal newborns (0.7 μg/dL) compared to non-Aboriginal newborns (0.6 μg/dL). For Aboriginal children aged six months to less than 12 months, 19 per cent (13) had BLLs above the guideline. There was a 1.0 μg/dL difference between Aboriginal (3.3 μg/dL) and non-Aboriginal (2.3 μg/dL) children in this age group.
In the one year to less than five years age bracket, the participation rate for Aboriginal children appeared high (89 per cent), though the number of Aboriginal children screened (127) was the lowest in 10 years. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of those screened had BLLs above the guideline – though this is an 11 per cent decrease on the last 10 years – with eight per cent having high or very high BLLs (20 μg/dL or higher) compared to less than one per cent of non-Aboriginal children.
NSW Health has engaged an expert panel to review the blood level screening program for children in the Hill and they’ll give advice on how to ensure screening is most effective and well-connected to services to provide the best possible health outcomes for children.
Advice and information regarding blood lead levels in Broken Hill is here: https://leadsmart.nsw.gov.au/
NSW Health provides a range of factsheets, response protocols and DIY sources to address elevated blood lead levels at https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/
To read the Broken Hill Lead Program 2022 Annual Report, visit https://www.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-06/Broken%20Hill%20Lead%20Program%20Annual%20Report%202022.pdf