18 November 2008
A specialised team investigating concerns raised by Rosebery residents about their health and living environment is to be expanded.
The Director of Public Health, Dr Roscoe Taylor, and Warren Jones, the Director of Tasmania's Environment Protection Authority said the expansion was considered appropriate in light of new complaints raised by residents from a third Rosebery property on Friday.
Dr Taylor said the project team would continue to include representatives from Public Health and the EPA, but would have the ability to draw on the knowledge of independent experts in the appropriate fields.
"My new Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr Chrissie Pickin, has been charged with leading the project team," Dr Taylor said.
"I want to stress that we continue to agree with residents that they need a thorough health assessment, and we intend to continue to work with them on a way forward.
"My advice relating to the heavy metal blood test results of the original residents who raised the concerns remains sound - that is that we should not just assume that environmental sources of contaminants such as heavy metals are necessarily responsible for existing health problems.
"However, additional blood tests and soil test results received from residents of another Rosebery property also mean that further investigation is warranted.
"It is important for newer residents in the Rosebery area to know that monitoring of heavy metals such as lead in the community has been carried out over a number of years on the West Coast.
"For example the Menzies Centre studies in 1992, 1994, 1997 and 1999 showed average blood lead concentrations in children that were quite acceptable by national standards.
"Similarly, smaller studies by Oz Minerals in 2007 and again in 2008 found reassuringly low results. All these surveys will help to inform the action we take now," Dr Taylor said.
The Director of the EPA, Warren Jones, said further soil tests would be conducted in the affected residents' yards.
"The testing is expected to begin later this week and will also take place in a number of public areas to give a clearer picture of heavy metal profiles in the area and guide any further action," Mr Jones said.
Additional expert input will also be sought from a consultant toxicologist and other experts will be called in as required.
Dr Taylor said that an offer had been extended to the residents who raised the original concerns to travel to the Launceston General Hospital for necessary health testing.
"We are able to house these residents in a patient accommodation facility in Launceston while this occurs, giving the local council time to start remediation work on the properties.
"This plan requires the consent of the residents involved and we are currently in discussions with them on the way forward but I would strongly recommend that they take up the offer to investigate their health concerns thoroughly," Dr Taylor said.