Dr Susan Jack says the blood lead testing aims to understand more about the lead that Waikouaiti and Karitane communities may have been exposed to over the long term.
Dr Jack explains that lead can be a risk to health in two ways. It can either be through a high level ‘acute’ exposure that would have an immediate effect on health. More commonly, however, concerns about lead exposure relate to a long term, cumulative build up of the chemical in the body.
The recent spikes are unlikely to have created a risk of acute toxicity, but it was not impossible, particularly for young children, Dr Jack said. The adverse effects would normally be experienced within a few days of consuming a significant volume of highly contaminated water.
“We have asked people to not drink the water, to eliminate the risk of further exposures to any spikes that could create an acute situation.
“Now our focus must turn to the second question, of understanding whether there has been long term chronic exposure to lead in the community.
“This is what we hope the testing will help us learn. We hope a good number of people in the community will take up this opportunity to have their blood levels tested.
“We acknowledge the significant concern the community is experiencing, and giving people the chance to find out their blood lead levels provides them with further information that is helpful as we work through the next steps in this difficult situation.”