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'Hard evidence' Mt Isa mine causing health pr -

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ELEANOR HALL: Tests on houses in a Queensland mining town are the latest weapon in a legal fight by
families whose children have high levels of lead in their blood.

Macquarie University Professor Mark Taylor has studied the dust in Mount Isa houses and a primary
school, and found what he calls "hard evidence" that mining emissions are causing the problem.

The study was commissioned by lawyers running the test case for a lead affected child. But the
mining company Xstrata and the Queensland Government have questioned the report's findings, as
Annie Guest reports.

ANNIE GUEST: Professor Mark Taylor is an environmental scientist and soil specialist at Macquarie
University. He's previously studied soil samples in Mount Isa and now he's examined 100 samples of
dust from houses, a school and roadsides. Professor Taylor says, he found it contained traces of
lead and other metals, up to 45 times above safe limits.

MARK TAYLOR: The essence of my findings that were conducted during April and May and those samples
were then processed at the national measurement institute in Sydney, which is a Federal Government
laboratory. All of the dust wipes that I took exceeded the USEPA (United States Environmental
Protection Agency) guideline.

ANNIE GUEST: He says US limits are widely accepted and are also used by the Queensland Government.
However, that's disputed by the Environmental Protection Agency. But why is there an argument over
the contents of household dust?

Well Professor Taylor and the lawyers say, it proves a link between mine emissions and atmospheric
metals. They say it's Xstrata's lead, zinc, silver and copper mining operations that caused 11 per
cent of Mount Isa's children to have dangerously high lead levels.

MARK TAYLOR: What this is showing us is that there is dust in the atmosphere and that dust is rich.
And in some cases extremely rich in lead, and that is one of the most significant pathways for
children to ingest through either through breathing in or through falling on the ground and then
putting their hands on the ground or on surfaces in the house and then putting their fingers in
their mouth. So it's a clear pathway for lead poisoning or raising blood lead levels in children.

ANNIE GUEST: But how does it show any proof that it's caused by the mine?

MARK TAYLOR: Well it's atmospherically derived, so where else is it going to come from?

ANNIE GUEST: The mining company Xstrata is sceptical about the study. It questions whether the
research is part of a scare mongering campaign to support the legal action mounted on behalf of a
lead-affected six-year-old girl.

The Queensland Government wont comment, saying it's waiting to see Professor Taylor's work. But it
comes as a draft report by the Environmental Protection Agency is also made public showing
Government testing of household dust and other sources.

Ian Wilson is the director of technical operations at the EPA:

IAN WILSON: The majority of them were within the Australian standard for dust. There is an
Australian standard for 361 and the majority of them were within that standard. Two or three were
excessive and some were extremely excessive and they had reasons for being that way that were
nothing to do with the air.

ANNIE GUEST: Your agency's draft Mount Isa lead summary status report actually says that air
pathways are a significant contributor to blood lead in children. Now that would seem to dismiss
previous arguments put by Xstrata and the Queensland Government that high lead levels are from
environmental causes?

IAN WILSON: In a town like Mount Isa it has higher lead in the air levels than other places and
they will be a contributor. But 90 per cent of the children up there are below the national and the
World Health Organisation levels.

So obviously 90 per cent of the children are not being affected by the air and it's pretty hard to
see how the other 10 could be identified as having their excessive amounts of lead being due to the
same air the other children are breathing. So there has to be other sources in the environment.

ELEANOR HALL: Ian Wilson is from Queensland's Environmental Protection Agency and he was speaking
to Annie Guest in Brisbane.