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Toxic substances found in playground soil in Australia
Dr. Mariann Lloyd-Smith (former IPEN Co-Chair) from IPEN Participating Organization National Toxics Network, quoted in story below:
Sydney Morning Herald, July 7, 2013
The Environmental Protection Authority has been accused of covering up the discovery of some of the most poisonous substances on earth at levels well above health limits, alarming residents whose children use the tested area as a playground.
The discovery of three toxic metals - mercury, lead and chromium - and four toxic chemicals - HCB, Aroclor and the banned pesticides DDT and dieldrin - was made by the EPA in April when it tested soil across the road from the industrial site of chemical giant Orica.
The EPA did not release the results, instead issuing a statement saying the contaminants found did not pose a health risk, but it had referred some results that required further investigation to the landowner, Sydney Water. Those results, obtained by Fairfax Media, show mercury, lead and chromium well above NSW health limits.
Results from tests on soil at Grace Campbell Reserve.
Shocked residents say they knew nothing about the discovery at the Grace Campbell Reserve, the site of a Botany Council community day next weekend.
Resident Len Mahoney said it was ''disgraceful'' that it had been hidden from residents for so long. ''This area should have been tested years ago,'' he said. ''Now they have discovered there is a cocktail of hideous chemicals in this soil and the government seems to be hiding that fact.''
Local mother Melissa Rogers said she was concerned about the effects on children who have been playing at the park.
Opposition environment spokesman Luke Foley said it was the second time Environment Minister Robyn Parker and the regulator had failed to inform the public about toxic chemicals suspected of coming from an Orica facility.
''Robyn Parker almost lost her job over the Kooragang Island debacle,'' Mr Foley said. ''She promised she would do better, yet the community has been left in the dark yet again.''
Andrew Helps from Hg Recoveries, who has also been conducting tests in the area on behalf of the residents, warned that a baby needed to ingest only a pinhead-sized piece of soil contaminated with lead for it to cause a major problem. He has also warned pregnant women are most at risk.
Sydney Water has said it undertook more soil sample tests last month that showed the ''average concentration of chemicals in soils were safe for recreational land use'', in contrast to the initial EPA results.
A spokesman for Sydney Water said that report could not be released because they had yet to receive it.
But Mariann Lloyd-Smith, a senior adviser to the National Toxics Network, warned that small children should not be exposed to any levels of the chemicals and metals identified in the EPA test results.
''Of particular concern are the very toxic PCBs, mercury and lead that were found as these are very serious developmental toxins that can affect children's health and development. They are no longer considered to have any safe level of exposure,'' Dr Lloyd-Smith said.
A spokeswoman for the EPA said they were concerned misinformation was causing unnecessary concern. ''The levels of contaminants found to date by the EPA in areas outside the Botany industrial area have all been sufficiently low to have negligible impacts on the environment or human health, with one site requiring further investigation,'' she said.
Orica, which has been responsible for a string of pollution incidents across the state, has been ordered by the EPA to clean up the pollution on its Denison Street site that once housed a mercury-producing Chlor-Alkali plant.
Both Mr Helps and Dr Lloyd-Smith have questioned why the EPA omitted to test for another serious indicator - organochlorine - which would show other contaminants.