The Mid Western Health Board is carrying out a blood screening programme in Silvermines, County Tipperary, to test for lead levels in adults and, in particular, young children. The screening is part of an inter-agency investigation headed by the Department of Agriculture, which began after a number of animals living close to a tailings pond in the area were found to have died from lead poisoning.

This probe began after repeated calls from local people to look into the health risks associated with the tailings pond located close to the village of Silvermines, which has a long mining history. Described locally as a 34 acre toxic lake, the EPA has described it as a perpetual risk to human health and the environment.

The Mid Western Health Board is now testing whether any humans are effected from lead in the environment after several cattle living on farms close to the tailings pond died from lead poisoning. Already 170 people have called to a health clinic established in the village of Silvermines. They are also targeting in particular about 400 school children in the area, as well as children under 5.

High lead levels in children internationally have shown a reduction in mental capacity of up to 9%. It is believed locally that some test results have shown high blood lead levels, but the Health Board says that there is nothing so far to cause alarm or to indicate evidence of acute illness.