The government has revealed that 39 people living in public estates affected by lead contamination have blood lead content above acceptable standards.

The 39 affected individuals include 27 children under the age of six and 12 lactating mothers. A total of 302 people were tested.

The government announced on Tuesday that they would send the affected children for developmental testing. It will broaden the scope of blood testing and increase the number of blood samples processed per week. Officials said they may install water filters at the affected estates as a short term measure to provide safe water.

Press Conference on lead contamination
Press Conference on lead contamination. Photo: OnTV.

The lead content in blood for the 39 people ranged from 5 to 15 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL). According to standards set out by the Department of Health, a blood lead level in the range of 5 – 44 μg/dL is considered elevated with potential health risks for people under 18, and pregnant and lactating mothers. Measurements above 45 μg/dL are considered significantly elevated with risks of lead poisoning. For adults, the corresponding standards are 10 – 50 μg/dL and above 50 μg/dL.

In the results of the first batch of blood testing announced by the government on Saturday, all samples were considered normal. Secretary of Health Ko Wing-man also said that tests to verify that the blood lead content was related to water contamination could be done once more blood test results are released.

Last Saturday, the government first confirmed that the Kai Ching Estate had lead concentrations in its water supply exceeding World Health Organisation standards. Lead contamination was soon found in two other estates last Tuesday and on Monday. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying recently announced the establishment of an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the issue.

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.