DOCTORS have been warned residents could show signs of lead poisoning after elevated levels were found in gardens.
The warning comes after the result of soil sampling tests carried out by Wrexham Council in Coedpoeth and Brymbo – two former lead mining areas.
Wrexham Council has a statutory duty to carry out tests to identify land that may be contaminated from past industrial activities.
The former lead smelters in the two villages ceased operation in the mid to late 1800s but some ground contamination could be left on the land.
In a letter sent to local GPs Dr Judy Hart, consultant in communicable disease control at Public Health Wales, said: “Some of your patients, who live in houses built on former lead smelting sites in Coedpoeth and Brymbo near Wrexham, may present with health concerns related to the recent soil sampling results which have shown elevated levels of lead.”
The letter refers to a briefing note from the Public Health England Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (Wales) on lead, which states: “Lead is a cumulative toxin and the harmful effects that may occur largely depend on how much people have been exposed to and for how long.
“Consuming food, drinking water, or breathing air contaminated with lead or lead compounds for a short period should not cause any immediate ill effects.
“At the levels reported at some of these sites the potential risk is mostly likely as a result of longer term exposure where the most important adverse effect of lead is on intellectual and cognitive development in children, although there is also evidence of increased blood pressure and kidney toxicity in adults.
“Children exposed to lead when in the womb or during the first few years of life may have a lower IQ, behavioural problems or nerve damage.”
Dr Hart said question and answer sheets have been produced for affected residents so they can take precautionary action to minimise their exposure while further risk assessment is completed, and added: “This will establish whether there is a need for remedial action at any of the properties. The council has also offered to visit individual householders to discuss the soil testing results for their property with them.”
The local authority’s information sheet advises anyone in the affected properties who is planning to carry out home or garden improvements to enter into discussions with the local authority before going ahead.
It states: “Living on contaminated soils does not automatically mean that the chemicals in the soil will affect your health.
“Even if land does have raised levels of chemicals this does not necessarily mean that the people living on this land will have been exposed to harmful amounts of the chemicals present.”
The council is required to assess whether ground contamination is left on the land to see if remedial work needs to be undertaken.
Robert Johnston, principal environmental protection and enforcement manager, said: “Many sites in the UK have undergone contamination assessments just like this and the council prides itself in taking a very pro-active approach in dealing with these types of issues.”
The folliowing advice has been issued to anyone living on sites where contamination may exist:
Any person working in the garden should wear gloves and ensure hands are washed thoroughly afterwards, especially before eating or smoking.
Children playing in the garden should wash their hands thoroughly afterwards and should be discouraged from playing in areas where the soil is exposed (e.g. flower beds).
Don’t let young children play with the soil or put it in their mouths.
Remove shoes before entering house after gardening or playing in the garden.
Eating fruit and vegetables grown at the properties should be limited or stopped.
If you do decide to eat fruit and vegetables grown at the property, make sure they are washed and peeled before use.
Consider growing vegetables in grow bags or containers until the investigations, and any action that is necessary as a result, are completed.
Wash and store gardening tools and clothing outside.
Keep certain clothing for gardening and wash separately.
Keep children’s outdoor toys, play areas and surfaces clean – free of visible soil – by washing with water.
Clean stroller and bike wheels to avoid tracking soil indoors.
Brush and/or wash pets outdoors, removing dirt before they enter the home.