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Recognising and responding to the obvious: the source of lead pollution at Mount Isa and the likely health impacts

Niels C Munksgaard, Mark P Taylor and Alana Mackay
Med J Aust 2010; 193 (3): 131-132.
Published online: 2 August 2010

Blood lead levels in children in Mount Isa are substantially elevated, and a purported lack of knowledge of the lead source is no longer tenable

Environmental lead levels and blood lead concentrations in children at Mount Isa, in north-western Queensland, are substantially elevated compared with background values1-3 and, as a consequence, there is a public health risk. This problem is exacerbated by the reluctance of stakeholders, including Xstrata Mount Isa Mines Ltd, operator of Mount Isa Mines (MIM), and Queensland environmental and health authorities to acknowledge and respond effectively to the fact that the main environmental lead source is mining and smelting activity.1,2 It is frequently claimed that the lead source is natural surface mineralisation;4-6 this is not the case.

  • Niels C Munksgaard1
  • Mark P Taylor2
  • Alana Mackay2

  • 1 Environmental and Life Sciences, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT.
  • 2 Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

Niels Munksgaard produced some of the analytical data referred to as a consultant. He has publicly commented on related matters in conflict with the views of Xstrata the Queensland Government. Mark Taylor has received payments from Slater and Gordon, solicitors, to support sampling at Mount Isa. Alana Mackay’s PhD research is partially funded by Mount Isa Water.

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