Research results in multi-million-dollar policy in Broken Hill

Throughout 2014, Professor Mark Taylor and his team from the Department of Environmental Sciences shared findings examining elevated lead, arsenic and cadmium dusts across Broken Hill playgrounds.

They called upon the New South Wales (NSW) Government to make a significant financial commitment to start a new Lead-Free Children’s Health Program – a call which, this month, has resulted in a new five year, $13 million program of works.

Environment Minister Rob Stokes, Health Minister Jillian Skinner and Western NSW Minister Kevin Humphries said the funding will address the issue of lead contamination and elevated blood lead levels in children in Broken Hill.

“In contrast to many situations when University research identifying environmental health problems is largely ‘ignored’, the NSW Government and the EPA have done the complete opposite,” says Mark.

“They have listened to the problem, evaluated and accepted the research and health risks, and have responded positively to a long-standing issue with a real, new financial and commitment.

“The winners in all of this are the children of Broken Hill – who will benefit in the long-term with hopefully effective and long-lasting programs to lower and mitigate adverse exposures to environmental contaminants.”

Mark met with the Minister of the Environment, Dr Rob Stokes, his Policy Adviser, and the NSW EPA in June 2014, to discuss the implications of their research in light of need to need to lower blood lead levels, especially those in Broken Hill, which had been rising in recent years.

“We could not have completed our study without the help of Macquarie students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, who contributed to sampling for our study,” says Mark.

“The dust study we undertook opened the door to students learning about important contemporary environmental issues. Their collective work has contributed directly to the findings produced in our reports and research outputs, which has helped elevate the issue of environmental contamination back onto the NSW EPA’s and the Government’s agenda. The consequence of that is really clear – you could not have asked for a more direct and demonstrable science to policy outcome from Macquarie’s work.”

Mark’s team also received funding from the Widening Participation Unit, as part of the LEAP – Environmental Science Curriculum Enrichment (Broken Hill) initiative.