Far West LHD Broken Hill Lead Health Program 2022 Annual Report released
The latest lead report from the Far West Local Health District shows the underlying trend is that population blood lead levels have plateaued, with no significant change since 2012.
The Broken Hill Lead Program aims to undertake annual blood lead level screening of all resident children aged under 5 years.
Blood lead testing is voluntary and offered free of charge to parents and carers through the Broken Hill Child and Family Health Service and the Maari Ma Primary Health Care Service.
The release of the 2022 Lead Report is a timely reminder to parents and carers that all children should continue to be tested annually until they are five years old, and a great time to do this is when children are getting their routine childhood immunisations.
In 2022 an estimated 306 (39 per cent) Broken Hill children aged one to five years had blood lead levels above the notification level of ≥5 micrograms per decilitre (μg/dL).
Significant outcomes in the 2022 annual lead health report were:
• The average lead level for all children aged six months to less than 12 months was 2.5 ug/dL, a decrease compared with 3.6 ug/dL in 2021.
• Of the 157 newborns tested via umbilical cord blood screening, 22 percent were Aboriginal and 78 per cent were non-Aboriginal.
• In 2022, the program saw an increase in the number of children screened across two of the three age groups compared with considerable declines seen in 2021. Trends in the estimated participation rates for all children aged 1 year to less than 5 years overall have remained stable, meaning that four in every five children in this age group have participated in the program.
As children develop and begin to interact with their environment between six and 12 months by rolling, crawling, and putting things in their mouth, the risk of exposure to lead increases but is slightly lower than when they become toddlers and have greater freedom to roam and explore. This is reflected in the higher levels of lead in blood of toddlers.
Notably, ten-year trends for children aged one to five years have seen the blood lead levels in this age group decrease, from above the notification level to below this level. Annual blood lead levels for Aboriginal children over time have fallen, however 2022 average was above the notification level.
NSW Health is convening a panel of experts to review the blood lead screening program for children in Broken Hill. The panel will provide advice on how to ensure screening is effective, and well connected to services, to provide the best possible health outcomes for all children.
Advice and information regarding blood lead levels in Broken Hill can be obtained from the Leadsmart website: https://leadsmart.nsw.gov.au/.
NSW Health provides a range of resources including factsheets, response protocols and DIY sources to address elevated blood lead levels at https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/
The Far West Local Health District Lead Report 2022 – Broken Hill Children less than 5 years old is available at https://www.nsw.gov.au/health/fwlhd under Our Services, Child and Family Health, Lead Health Program.