City so polluted with toxic lead ‘children can’t play outside on windy days’

A city is reported to be so polluted with toxic lead children can’t play outside on windy days.

Residents in Port Pirie in South Australia say they do not drink tap water or hang their washing to dry outside.

One of the world’s biggest primary lead smelters, run by metals firm Nyrstar, has been based in the city since 1889. The smelter covers the city in tiny particles of the toxic metal.

Generations of residents have had their health affected by it, news.com.au reports.

Kids are at risk from the lead they ingest in their homes and communities.

Fears about contamination stretch back to 1925, when a royal commission took place into lead poisoning.

Official figures from last year show lead levels in the city’s two-year-old children were the highest since 2011, when the testing regime was introduced.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states there is no safe level of blood lead concentration.

Readings as low as five micrograms/decilitre (100ml) can be linked to learning problems, behavioural difficulties and decreased intelligence.

But the city’s two-year-olds had an average lead level higher than that, at 6.6, Australia media reports.

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The state government introduced a ban last year on fishing in the local harbour after test show fish were not safe to eat.

Karen Davis said she can’t take her one-year-old son, Macen, out on windy days or let him to go to the beach or certain playgrounds.

Her family doesn’t drink tap water or hang washing out to dry, she added.

Mark Taylor, a professor of environmental science and human health at Macquarie University, said: “Children are our future, and we have a duty to protect our future, we have a duty to protect the children.

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“They’re trading the outcomes of these children’s lives for the profits of a private company.”

A spokesman for the country’s department for energy and mining said regulators are “confident” a major investment in the city will significantly improve its “environment and health”.

The statement said an air monitoring programme by Nyrstar would increase the ability to track further progress in reducing lead exposure.

A Nyrstar spokesman said: “Nyrstar remains committed to working with a range of government and community stakeholders to improve health outcomes in Port Pirie.”

Reducing blood lead levels in youngsters is a major priority for the firm, it added.

The company carried out initiatives last year to improve air quality in the city which will continue this year, the spokesman said.

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