Lessons learned on lead poisoning in children: One-hundred years on from Turner's declaration

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There is significant emerging evidence showing life-long negative health, intellectual and socio-behavioural impacts as a result of childhood blood lead concentrations well below the widely used intervention level of 10 μg/dL. This issue raises serious health concerns for children in several Australian smelting and mining towns. Routine educational and home cleanliness advice to wet mop floors rather than to use a brush and pan to reduce lead exposure risks have been shown to have limited efficacy. This paper argues, as advocated 100 years ago by Queensland doctor Alfred Jefferis Turner, that childhood lead poisoning can only be mitigated via primary prevention and reduction of contaminants at source. Given that the effects of lead exposure are irreversible, there is a strong argument for the application of the precautionary principle to dealing with childhood lead exposure. There is a clear need to improve regulatory controls and emissions management to reduce environmental lead exposure risks.

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