Lead detected in water at Yarrabah educational facilities
7 June 2023
Bottled water and free and voluntary blood tests are being provided to children and staff at Yarrabah educational facilities after testing detected lead in the water.
Queensland Health Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said appropriate and precautionary measures were being taken, based on the preliminary results of water samples at Yarrabah State School’s primary and secondary campuses and the kindergarten.
Dr Gerrard said Queensland Health, Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, the Department of Education, and Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council were working closely to conduct further tests to determine the sources of contamination and if any rectification works were necessary.
While health advice indicated a low risk of exposure to lead at all three sites, Dr Gerrard said the health and wellbeing of children and teaching staff was being prioritised.
“The immediate health risks are minimal,” he said.
“Out of an abundance of caution, children and staff at Yarrabah’s kindergarten, and primary and secondary schools will use bottled water for drinking until we are certain supplies are safe to ingest.
“While this is understandably concerning for the community, it is still safe for children and staff to use the water for non-drinking purposes.
“Free blood testing will also be made available for staff and children, and anyone in Yarrabah who is concerned.”
Dr Gerrard said it was safe for the broader community to continue consuming the town’s water supply provided taps used for drinking water were flushed daily.
“Testing of the Yarrabah town water supply has repeatedly shown that it complies with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and does not contain lead. This was confirmed in the most recent test last week,” he said.
“As is the case with any water supply, contaminants can sometimes leach into drinking water from plumbing fittings and can accumulate if taps are left unused. Running the tap usually solves the problem.
“I recommend everyone in Yarrabah routinely run their kitchen tap for 30 seconds first thing in the morning in case there is corrosion in their plumbing, and for two minutes if they haven't used it for more than two days.”
- Ingestion of lead can lead to health problems, with children and unborn babies more affected than adults. Physical contact with lead does not present a health risk.
- Free blood testing will be established as priority for school staff and children and anyone in Yarrabah who is concerned. Blood tests will be available at the Gurriny Workshop Road Clinic from Friday 9 June.
- Water supplies at the three educational sites were tested as a precaution after lead was found in water at Yarrabah Health Facility in May. To date, all lead blood test results in health facility staff have been negative. Patients and staff are being provided with bottled water, and staff are being offered blood tests.
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